Mountain Fever Records, 2013.
Hammertowne is the junction of five musicians originally hired on as session musicians for a solo recording, but ended up as the hot new bluegrass band with their first album out this year, the self-titled Hammertowne. Coming out of eastern Kentucky, the sound from these artists will make any music lover think of the community, heritage, and skill that come from those rich country hills. With both traditional and original material, Hammertowne brings out the blend of voice-boxes and Martin boxes to fill the air with rich tunes not soon forgotten.
The album starts with a twangy lament of lost loved in I’m Thinking You Don’t Love Me Anymore, while Cherokee Maiden has a far more joyful tune but with similar fast-picking and strong strumming. Movin’ takes the tone down a bit, and lets voices come to the fore for the first time. This Old Martin Box has a lower and slower voice, with more articulation, and a less banjo-centered instrumentation (although the banjo is still present and accounted for). Following on the heels, is Iver Johnson Is My Name- a strong John Henry style tune of defiance and toughness. In Why Don’t You Tell Me So, the harmonies for Hammertowne truly bring the hammer down as the voices meld into one beautiful sound. So Long And Goodbye returns to a similar sound from early in the album; like all good things, they must return to their beginnings in good time. Just up next is a true country tune of love and struggle in Emma, with the rough knocks and struggle that may resonate in the words but are absent from the playing. Too Far Gone breaks from the rest of the album and adds some depth with added production and editing than other songs found on the record, and closes with a strong finish to the selection. The next song- I’ll Talk It All Over With Him- is the weak link but still is a good listen and far better than many weak links that I’ve heard on other albums. Sourwood Mountain closes the album with a solid string showing on one of my favorite traditional ballads.
All told, Hammertowne is a great beginning and a grand new band that’s very much worth a listen, and more so if you can track them down in person some time.
Personnel: Brent Pack (banjo), Doug Burchett (bass), Dave Carroll (guitar), Chaston Carroll (mandolin), Scott Tackett (guitar)
Tracks: I’m Thinking You Don’t Love Me Anymore, Cherokee Maiden, Movin’, This Old Martin Box, Iver Johnson Is My Name, Why Don’t You Tell Me So, So Long And Goodbye, Emma, Too Far Gone, I’ll Talk It All Over With Him, Sourwood Mountain