Town Mountain/Lines in the Levee/New West Records
Four Out of Five Stars
One of the foremost outfits operating in the realms of today’s nu-grass environs, Asheville-based band Town Mountain arrives at that juncture courtesy of their adroit blend of classic country, folk, bluegrass, rock and roll, and, of course, Americana. The follow-up to 2018’s lauded New Freedom Blues, the new album reflects the band’s vast array of influences—The Band, Grateful Dead, Bill Monroe, Townes Van Zandt, Chuck Berry, John Hartford—while marking a step forward in a trajectory that encompasses four previous albums the band’s shared over the expanse of the past decade.
Ostensively then, Lines in the Levee focuses on the need to remain aware of climate change and the way it’s affecting today’s world. Nevertheless, the album kicks off with certain celebratory sound courtesy of its title track. The sturdier songs that follow—“Comeback Kid,” “Distant Line,” “Daydream Quarantina,” “Big Decisions,” and “Seasons Don’t Change” in particular—reflect a rustic, rootsy sound spawned from down-home environs. The homespun approach comes naturally, courtesy of fiddles, mandolins, and the other accoutrement normally associated with vintage references and otherwise unassuming environs.
Granted, Town Mountain could be considered retro in every regard, but given the populist approach that’s so prevalent these days, there’s no doubt it will reinforce their well-deserved reputation as festival favorites. The rousing “Firebrand Road” and the hopped-up hoedown “American Family” ought to rouse their adoring masses in any live scenario, but so too, bittersweet ballads such as “Rene,” “Lean Into the Blue” and “Unsung Heroes” provide a lingering embrace as well. Indeed, it’s hard to resist the comfy, country strains that give the album its amiable ambiance overall. In that regard, Lines in the Levee provides a comforting caress, like an old sweater or patched quilt that show years of use, but still function for the use they were intended.
While the lines the title refers to may show the effects of weathering and age, the structure still stands up quite well regardless. Consider this an archival effort with superb staying power.