SoundTrack web extra: Crooked Hollows

Singer-songwriter Ty Gilpin (High Windy) is a bluegrass musician at first glance. He plays mandolin; his band describes itself as “a look at the future of Bluegrass music.” But Gilpin’s solo project, the recently-released Crooked Hollows, is more of an exploration of Americana and roots music from as many perspectives as could possibly be managed in a mere eight tracks.

This spirit of adventure is felt most in “Queen of the Crows,” which comprises both the album’s lead and end tracks. The two versions are worlds apart. The first is a moody, lyrical tapestry of sound and imagery. It sweeps through mists and fallow fields, Gilpin’s mandolin and the banjo (Steve Sutton of Whitewater Bluegrass Company) adding as much character as Gilpin’s warm baritone and the gorgeous harmony offered up by Jen Duke.

The final track is a remix of that song, crafted by local electronic composer Danny Peck (aka dep). Here, the mandolin still stars, but organic percussion also surfaces like a cold rain, a hard frost, a flurry of bird wings taking flight. Gilpin will recreate the remix, live, with Peck doing an AHA AVL show at Moog Music on Wednesday, Dec. 19.

Crooked is Gilpin’s solo project, but it’s hardly a solo effort. The mandolin player tapped “the best of the Asheville roots music scene” (as he puts it, on a handbill that accompanies the CD). On the country waltz, “Smiling For The Camera,” Darren Nicholson (Balsam Range) plays guitar, Sav Sankaran (The Dixie Bee-liners) plays bass (those two also sing baritone and tenor harmony vocals, respectively), Matt Smith (Pierce Edens) is on pedal steel and Tim Gardner (High Windy) plays fiddle.

“Old Rotten Ribbons” is a wistfully swaying tune, and a perfect backdrop for a poignant duet between Lance Mills (Lance Mills and the Cavemen) and Amanda Platt (The Honeycutters). Session drummer (at Horizon Records and Sunlight Records) Tony Creasman’s tight, almost jazzy percussion brings a lightness to the song — a perfect balance to Smith’s mournful steel guitar part.

Where “Light Just One Candle” (with lead vocals by Buddy Melton ofBalsalm Range) has more of a traditional high lonesome bluegrass feel, the Taylor Martin (Taylor Martin’s Engine)-led “Been In Love Before” toes a line between rock and newgrass. It’s the snarl in Martin’s lyric that heats up the song; Gilpin’s limber mandolin pulses like a heartbeat throughout.

And, just to fully-cover the roots music map, “Going To The West” is a Celtic-tinged ballad. It sounds traditional but was (like its fellow tracks) written and arranged by Gilpin. Duke’s sweet vocal is matched with the achingly lovely high and low Irish whistles played by Duncan Wickel (he also plays fiddle). The low whistle — a rhythmic buzz — adds a bold texture to what could have been a cloying and airy song. A bass part by Charles Humphrey III (Steep canyon Rangers) rounds out the song’s considerable depth.

For all of the names dropped in this review, there are still at least handful of additional contributors. That’s worth noting because, as accomplished as Gilpin’s songwriting and arranging is, he’s equally skilled at matching talent with platform. Want to know about the world class roots music currently being exported from Asheville? Listen to Crooked: It’s all right here.


Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.