Savannah has certainly been feeling the wintry cold snap as of late. What better way to warm your buns than some hard-driving Carolina string band music?
Rootsy crooners Town Mountain will be performing at The Pickin' Parlor at Randy Wood Guitars 7:30 p.m. Feb. 1.
Based in Asheville, N.C., this string band's players include Phil Barker on mandolin, Robert Greer on lead vocals and guitar, Jesse Langlais on banjo, Bobby Britt on fiddle and Jake Hopping on bass. Together, they create heartfelt, energetic, old-timey tunes.
Town Mountain released its fourth album, "Leave the Bottle," last year, and the boys have been on the road practically since then. Grammy-winner Mike Bub produced this most recent album, as well as the group's previous release, "Steady Operator."
In 2013, the International Bluegrass Music Association also honored Town Mountain with a Band of the Year award, and cited lead singer Robert Greer as Vocalist of the Year. In short, it's been quite a year for the superstar string pluckers.
Town Mountain's show at Randy Wood will be a homecoming of sorts, since they visited the venue in August 2010. Of the band's extensive touring schedule, banjoist Jesse Langlais reflects that "really playing for anybody, anywhere who likes our brand of music is always a pleasure. I have too many stories from the road. Some I could tell, some I couldn't."
Fans of bluegrass legends like Keith Whitley, John Hartford, Bill Monroe and Paul Brady might hear a trace of their influence sprinkled throughout Town Mountain's oeuvre, but that's not all the band is about.
"All of our musical influences go well beyond bluegrass. They have no limits," Langlais said.
In fact, Town Mountain recently released a cover of the Springsteen karaoke standard "I'm On Fire."
Town Mountain's original compositions stand out for their instrumental virtuosity and classic harmonies.
"The songwriting process is different for each of us," Langlais said. "Generally speaking, it's a long process with lots of different ideas filtering through before the final product. The origin of the final product may start with a melodic hook or a couple of vocal lines. Melodies can often get changed around as much as words do."
When pressed for the secret to keeping "harmony" among the band on its grueling tour schedule - as well as in the songs themselves - Langlais points out that friendship is key.
"First and foremost, we're all friends and that itself helps keep the harmony," he said.
The key, Langlais said, is to produce music that "feels very closely related to real life, not contrived."
This sentiment is echoed in the band's very name, an homage to a mountain that runs along the outskirts of downtown Asheville. Town Mountain's music is both a nostalgic state of mind and very real place in time.
Town Mountain skirts the boundaries between traditional and contemporary styles. Playing at The Pickin' Parlor is an extra delight for band members because of the craftsmanship of specialty instruments available in the shop.
"Musicians are known for making impulsive buys on instruments," Langlais said.
Either way, he said, "It's all about putting on a good show." So whether you're a die-hard fan or if your only exposure to bluegrass was the celebrated soundtrack to the Coen Brothers' film "O Brother Where Art Thou," Town Mountain should have a little something for everyone.