125 Miles West of Charlotte.

Jesse Langlais of Town Mountain & the importance of music among friends.

Travel 125 miles west from Charlotte and you’re bound to start hearing banjos. Talking to Jesse Langlais(Banjo & vocalist for Town Mountain), evidence of this statement could be found at any given street corner in Asheville.

Asheville is Home.

Asheville was home for Town Mountain even before the group had formed. Jesse explained “We had all lived in Asheville long before Town Mountain was a band.” Town Mountain came to be out of the different open jams around Asheville. The culture of Asheville lended itself to musicians meeting out of these different events. It also fostered the strong sense of collaboration that brought on many new faces and ideas to the band. As Jesse said

Collaboration is a really big part of bluegrass music, with friends jumping in and out of each others bands…

Music Among Friends

With their latest album New Freedom Blues, collaboration was at the forefront of its creation. Friend Caleb Klauder(mandolin & fiddle for the Foghorn Stringband) was at the helm as producer. Miles Miller(drummer for Tyler Childers & Sturgill Simpson) provided the drums for the album, although his impact was more apparent as the band rehearsed a few songs with him. Jesse explains

“Miles came into the studio and we rehearsed a few songs, and it ended up that almost every song on the album had Miles on drums”.

With Miles came Tyler Childers(a good friend of the band) who co-wrote and provided vocals on the last song on the album Down Low. Recording the album in Echo Mountain Studios in Asheville, the band felt perfectly at home experimenting with different ideas.

A Busy Schedule

Town Mountain, like a lot of other working bands, tours heavily. Jesse gave me a ballpark range of over 120 dates a year. I was able to catch them live as they stopped in Charlotte at the Visulite Theatre July 25th. Playing close to a 2 hour set, the energy and tenacity of this band is relentless. Zac Smith(bass) provided a solid foundation for blistering solos courtesy of members Phil Barker & Bobby Britt. Jesse Langlais incorporated a great hand on banjo, while Robert Greer sang the truth in song. The musicianship of this band as a whole can’t be overlooked.

The crowd stayed eager throughout the whole set, getting rowdier as the night progressed, hollering after each solo and song. Town Mountain put on such a flawless show that they even did two songs after the encore.

As far as shows coming up, there is a big one on their minds. Red Rocks, with Tyler Childers. “Were really looking forward to Red Rocks” Jesse said enthusiastically.

125 Miles west of Charlotte is where Town Mountain came to be. They continue to be a band that works hard and plays hard. Hats off to these NC natives for making great music and being even better people. Special thanks to Jesse Langlais for taking the time to talk!

True Grit. in life & in music.

Kentucky brings out the best country musicians..Kyle Daniel is one of em’

Kyle Daniel was a newcomer on my country radar.. A product of my Spotify discover weekly. I owe the streaming service a lot over the past few years, but after discovering Kyle, I may be indebted forever.

Kentucky & country music are hot right now. The state is scattered with the birthplaces of many current country greats. Stapleton’s from Lexington, Sturgill’s from Jackson, and Kyle? Well he hails from Bowling Green. You can hear his emotion screaming through his Dr. Z amp.

After listening to his latest EP “What’s There To Say?” I could see that Kyle’s been through the ringer. “Born to Lose” invokes a story of a man who’s given up on not only those around him, but himself as well. The title track “What’s There To Say” shows a relationship in turmoil and the side effects that it brings. Reading into the life that Kyle lived in Bowling Green, it wasn’t without struggle. Stories of losing close friends to opioid addictions brought the track “Born to Lose’ to the world. This songwriting showed that Kyle is bringing a bigger issue to light. This is more than a song…more that an EP.

Artists that forge their own path in songwriting have a lot to prove. Listening to “What’s There To Say” brought me back to the first time I ever listened to “High Top Mountain” by fellow Kentuckian Sturgill Simpson. I feel these two albums share similarities, in that they talk about the hard stuff. The hard shit in life that involves real emotion and real struggle. That takes a lot of guts to do. This isn’t your typical three minute and thirty second song about (insert generic country theme here)

This music is about real life. What Kyle and other amazing artists from Kentucky do so well is they write from the heart. They don’t dance around the subject, they hit you straight in the face with it. They bring up topics that may not be Music Row friendly. The beautiful thing is that people care, and people relate.

Kyle’s live show was equally impressive. With an incredible band behind him, this was one of the tightest acts i’ve seen in a very long time. Mostly originals with a few covers in between, I really hope Kyle comes back to Charlotte soon. Whether it’s in life or on stage, Kyle Daniel proved to me that the power of a song is very much alive in country music.

Kyle fits right up there with other Kentucky greats who’ve come along to shape the future of country music.

Tony Lucca

The renaissance man residing in Nashville brings his stories to Charlotte.

Tony Lucca is indeed a man of many disciplines. From his start in acting, to finding success in songwriting, with songs being placed in major tv shows including Friday Night Lights, he has had a unique career as an entertainer so far.

Living in Los Angeles for a brief time(1995-1997) he acted full time until deciding to pursue music in 1997.

This was my first time seeing Tony live, so I was unaware of the energy he brings to his live shows, and it truly was infectious. The intimate setting of The Evening Muse brought Tony’s energy that much closer to the audience, providing a truly entertaining show. Tony has a way of inviting you into his songs, making you feel like you’ve heard them a thousand times. People can tell that the songs he writes mean something. They weigh on you and make you really believe true music. Different songs tell different times in his life such as “Empty Handed Blues”, born out of a long trip from Charlotte to Jacksonville. Tony’s songs are place marks in his life, a trait that many legendary songwriters have.

Tony with his TFDI Fest shirt. A music festival started by Tony and friends. https://www.tfdifest.com/

Apart from writing songs, Tony has ventured into organizing a music festival from scratch starting TFDI Fest(Totally Fuckin’ Doing It) with Jay Nash. “Hand selecting” different artists to perform, this festival will run in the fall(September 6th & 7th)

Other big news coming out of the workings of Tony include a new album called “Ain’t No Storm” releasing on March 29th. Super exciting news for sure!

Writing hit songs, releasing a new album, and starting a music festival sounds like a pipe dream for most musicians, but for Tony Lucca, he’s Totally Fuckin’ Doing It.

Future Thieves

It’s time to focus on one of Nashville’s celebrated rock n’ roll bands.

Future Thieves rolled into Charlotte, fresh off of releasing a new single entitled “Focus”. Weeks after selling out the Basement East in Nashville, these guys carried that same energy to Charlotte.

If there’s one thing to be said about these guys, is that they get the concept of straight forward, no frills rock and roll. I can remember about half way through the set, seeing bass player Nick Goss’ bass amp visibly rocking from side to side. That’s the energy of this band. That’s what they give you any night of the week.

Old favorites such as “Rosie” and “Horizon Line” were main staples in the set, but newer songs such as “Machines” and the newest of the bunch “Focus” really showed the creativity and versatility of the Future Thieves sound. These guys have found a really great sound that can appeal to not only rock n’ roll purists, but to fans of other pop centered genres.

Their last time in Charlotte was on October 5th, when they did a set for Sofar Sounds(a really cool music concept that you should check out). When talking about Sofar Sounds during the set, lead singer Elliot Collet was quick to praise the stripped down nature of the performance and the connection that it brings to the listener. That’s really the root of the success these guys have had so far. They love the connection between band and listener. They want to give you the best show possible, all the time, every time…and they always overdeliver.

Future Thieves has a couple remaining dates on their current tour schedule. Go support a band that thrives on real, pure music. I promise you’ll be a future fan.

Rayland Baxter

Seeing is Believing at The Visulite

Rayland Baxter isn’t black & white. Rayland Baxter isn’t one dimensional. Rayland Baxter certainly isn’t ordinary. Rayland is his own kind, a one-off, a truly magical artist that you need to see to believe.

The Nashville native(which makes him even more special) made his triumphant return to the Queen City, since his last appearance in Charlotte at The Evening Muse.

Most of the world including myself, were introduced to Rayland’s unique characteristics though one of his more popular songs “Yellow Eyes”. I still remember watching through the screen as a man in a Goodyear hat played all the right notes and hit all the right emotions.

After playing a couple of tried and true originals, Rayland’s tribute to another unique artist was one of the highlights of the night. His cover of “Come Back to Earth” by the late Mac Miller drew the crowd close. I took it as not only as as a tribute, but a gesture of respect. Later in the night, a cover by Neil Young was wildly accepted.

I believe very root of Baxters rise to prominence has to do with his carefree nature. He isn’t flashy or egotistic. He doesn’t try too hard to be “different”. He’s there for the music and the people. While other artists erect grandiose stage plots, Rayland comes out on stage amidst a tie dye backdrop, plugs in his Gibson semi hollow-body guitar, and lets the music shine.

We all came out on a Thursday night, not only to see a performance, but to believe in the magic of Baxter.

Baxter, known for his heavy touring, will be on the road through September.

Diamonds and Whiskey.

One of Charlotte’s country gems puts on one hell of a show.

A chilly night in January. Running from car to venue in order not to freeze was a requirement. Once inside, a warm welcome was made to Diamonds and Whiskey as they started their set.

With a kick of the leg on every downbeat, Von Bury(the guitar player for D&W) first caught my eye with his energetic stage presence and ferocious lead tones.

The band started out strong and loud, pairing original songs with some well known cover songs by Kings of Leon and other classic rock icons. When it was time for the energy of the set to come down, it was for good reason.

Jenny Webb(lead singer and guitar player for D&W) announced that they would play a song they had never done before live. The song entitled “hero” was about Jenny’s fight with Lyme disease.

It was honestly my favorite part of the night, showing how such a terrible ordeal can lead to such a moving song. If I didn’t know it was the first time this band had played this song live, I would have thought it had been a staple in their set for years.

After such an emotional & moving song, the band launched back into more original songs with the occasional cover song thrown in. Notably “Buy Me A Boat” by Chris Janson was a welcome surprise.

After the final song had been played, and the lights had come up, I was left with a really great feeling about this band. Their fans are loyal hard-working folks that just want to have a good time, they play no-frills in your face country-rock, and as a band they really gel well together.

I’m glad to see a band that knows how they want to sound & knows where they want to go.

Diamonds & Whiskey was on fire on a cold January night.