Grand Targhee Bluegrass is Almost Here! Get to Know the Lineup Pt. 2

The 32nd Annual Grand Targhee Bluegrass Fest is coming up fast! With the gathering of so many renowned artists and, especially, the people that come together to create a vibe only found here, it’s hard to not get excited. While everybody playing at this year’s fest is certainly not-to-be-missed, let’s meet a few more of the bands!

Town Mountain

They’ve tapped into a ragged hard drivin’ bluegrass country sound with tight vocal harmonies, a honky-tonk edge and barroom swagger.  We’ll go back to an era when jazz groups had banjos and country bands had horns. Bluegrass bands ventured into rockabilly and every country group had a boogie song.

This year, welcome Town Mountain, a band formed out of the fertile music scene of Asheville, located in the mountains of western North Carolina in an area that draws hippies, hipsters, and long-time Carolinians.  Their sound, which harkens back to first-generation bluegrass, is played in the Carolinian tradition but with a contemporary groove influenced by their Asheville scene.  

The past two years have pushed Town Mountain into the upper tier of acoustic bands and they have found themselves at some of the most prestigious festivals in the country, such as MerleFest, Grey Fox, Rockygrass, Suwannee Springfest and the Targhee Bluegrass Festival earning them a nomination for IBMA’ s 2014 Emerging Artist of the Year, a natural follow up to their two 2013 IBMA Momentum Awards.

With New Freedom Blues, Town Mountain has found a way to build off their past accomplishments and deep musical roots and to craft something new, exciting, and unapologetically authentic in terms of who they are as musicians and as people. Langlais sums it up well, saying, “This album illustrates the fact that bluegrass music will continue to be an ever-changing genre.”

Current Members:

Jesse Langlais – Banjo
Robert Greer – Vocalsk, Guitar
Phil Barker – Mandolin, Vocals
Bobby Britt – Fiddle
Zach Smith – Bass

Larry Keel

Larry Keel is described by music critics and reviewers as the most powerful, innovative and all-out exhilarating acoustic flatpicking guitarist performing today. Keel has absorbed the best lessons from his Bluegrass family upbringing, both sides deeply steeped in the rich mountain music culture and heritage of Southwest Virginia. From there, he has always integrated that solid musical grounding and natural-born talent with his own incomparable approach to playing amplified, acoustic guitar and composing original music. 

He’s also got a knack for choosing interesting and appealing material from all realms of music with guts, whether it’s a tune written by a fellow song-writer/musician friend, or a surprise cover from any number of musical acts all over the map. The combination is pretty irresistible, and has earned Keel the highest respect and billing among the top acoustic and jam rock musicians alive, and some now gone and his fierce, high-spirited energy also appeals to young rockers, jammers and alt-country pickers and fans who are equally drawn to Keel’s blazing guitar power, the deep rumbling voice, his earthy and expansive song-writing, and his down-home-gritty-good-time charm.

Throughout his career, Keel has released 15 albums and is featured on 10 others. The most recent release, March 2016, is EXPERIENCED, an entirely original work that showcases Larry’s and banjo virtuoso Will Lee’s exceptional songwriting, singing and jaw-dropping instrumental performances, accompanied by Keel’s equally talented wife Jenny Keel on upright bass and harmony vocals. This Americana Radio charting album exemplifies the raw sophistication of Keel’s progressive acoustic style, and features musician-friends who appear as guests on various tracks of Experienced. For Keel the musical mission is always clear: to let natural ability, finely-honed skill, honest emotion and fearlessness connect the playing and singing to audiences, to entertain and to thoroughly enjoy the experience of creating and sharing in music.

CURRENT MEMBERS:

Larry Keel – Guitar
Jared Pool – Vocals, Mandolin
Jenny Keel – Bass, Vocals

David Bromberg Quintet

For over five-and-a-half decades, David Bromberg may one of the most influential musician of the past, but his impact on contemporary music is undeniable. The multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter has performed and recorded with the likes of Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, George Harrison, Jerry Garcia, John Hiatt, Keb’ Mo’, Linda Ronstadt, Widespread Panic and a host of others before being catapulted into extensive FM radio play in 1973. A musician’s musician, Bromberg’s mastery of several stringed instruments (guitar, fiddle, Dobro, mandolin), and multiple styles is legendary and has allowed him many years of musical exploration.

Bromberg’s guitar work remains a marvel even after his return; amped electric lead – both slide and fretted – and delicately powerful acoustic fingerpicking propel these songs with the same force that made him the go-to guy for acts ranging from the Eagles to Link Wray. This is a man who can go full-on Chicago gutbucket, then slay with the jazz inflections of Ray Charles. It’s all “Americana” music to Bromberg, who cites “Doc Watson and Bill Monroe in bluegrass; Conway Twitty and George Jones in country; and Charlie Christian and Grant Green in jazz,” as his musical muses. “I have always been an omnivorous listener.” he says. But his primary inspiration was the Reverend Gary Davis, the blind Baptist minister, gospel singer and guitar player with whom Bromberg studied early in his career. Davis developed a unique picking style using only his thumb and index finger, while using all five fingers, thumb included, to play the chords on the neck of the instrument. “He was one of the greatest guitar players to walk the Earth, and if he had any antecedents, they never recorded, because I have never heard anything like him,” Bromberg says.

But for a period (1980-2002), Bromberg took a leave of absence from his longtime passions and became a renowned violin expert, and Wilmington, Delaware’s cultural ambassador, but he did eventually return to music-making and to a love of the blues. Although Bromberg points out he’s not the same guitarist he was before his two decades away from performing and recording. “I play differently,” he says. “I can’t play as fast, but playing slower gives me more time to think about what I’m doing.”

Longtime fans will notice another difference: Bromberg’s voice; he’s really singing. “When I first started,” Bromberg says, “singing was something I did between guitar solos. But during the period I did so little performing, I took some voice lessons, and now, I know more what I’m doing. I love singing now. Love it.”

Although he remains the proprietor of the beloved David Bromberg Fine Violins in Wilmington, Delaware – “I love my shop,” he says – Bromberg makes time to tour with his quintet, and he’s already included every song in his live repertoire (save “Yield Not,” which requires a choir), from The Blues, the Whole Blues and Nothing But the Blues. As ever, he brings his characteristic devotional intensity to the music, invigorating his surprise third act with the same passion he felt as a teen, spinning those blues 78s, just before the road called. 

CURRENT MEMBERS:

David Bromberg – Vocals, Guitar
Butch Amiot – Bass
Josh Kanusky – Drums
Mark Cosgrove – Guitar
Nate Grower – Fiddle
Peter Ecklund – Cornet

So, let the countdown begin! Get those festival clothes laid out just right, listen to some festival-inspired playlists, and, get ready to have a real good time, in a real good place, with a lot of real good people. Ready or not, here comes the 32nd Annual Grand Targhee Bluegrass Fest!