The newest album from North Carolina bluegrass outfit Town Mountain feels a bit like the experience of greeting an old friend after a long absence. There is a certain pleasure in realizing that the friend remains unchanged, that all their old mannerisms and lovable quirks are intact. Of course, it also means that there's little capacity for surprise—either negatively or positively.
Town Mountain is made up of five exceptionally talented musicians packing a van's worth of the standard bluegrass instruments. Each member weaves an engaging and layered sound with a strong emphasis on banjo and fiddle.
Steady Operator's songwriting hews closely to traditional bluegrass themes: Biblical allusions, the workingman's woes, and a healthy appreciation for nature. Predictable? Sure, but those classics still make for resonant music.
Whether or not Steady Operator is worth time and money is as easily answered as determining an opinion on bluegrass. This is traditional music capably and enthusiastically performed. And for my part, nothing pairs better with a sunny July afternoon spent outdoors.
Town Mountain plays the Top Hat Thursday, July 14, at 10 PM. $7.