The name is a little tricky: Hammertowne. Dave Carroll says it’s derived from the kind of aggressive, rhythmic bluegrass music his band fell in line with.
“We’re traditional in terms of the pace of our music and the type of music we prefer, but we’re also kind of edgy in how we play, as well,” Carroll says. “We’re high energy and kind of like to hammer down onstage. That’s where our name came from.”
But then there is the town aspect of Hammertowne, which performs Friday as the Festival of the Bluegrass gets into full gear at the Kentucky Horse Park Campground. That could be seen as a reference to the variety of Eastern Kentucky communities the band’s members hail from. Guitarist Carroll lives in Johnson County (specifically, Flat Gap) but is a native of Ashland, which is where his son, Hammertowne mandolinist Chaston Carroll, now resides. Bassist Bryan Russell makes his home in Magoffin County, just outside of Salyersville. Banjoist Brent Pack is from Louisa and lead vocalist Scott Tackett lives in Olive Hill.
“We describe our origin as Eastern Kentucky,” Carroll said. “That’s the best way it works for us. We all live within about an 80-mile radius of each other.
“For me, music was just part of my life growing up in that area. I actually didn’t start playing music until I got out of high school. I have a relative who is very well known throughout Central and Eastern Kentucky, an old time fiddle player by the name of Marvin Carroll. I remember when Marvin was playing with a band in a local community center. I went out and saw him one night and the bug bit me hard. From that point, I was determined to play and sing. I got me a guitar, which has encompassed a whole lot of my life ever since.”
Hammertowne got its start when Tackett, weary of his previous bluegrass band, set out to make a solo record with Carroll’s help. Once the record, titled “Looking Back,” was completed, the two took on concert dates initially booked for Tackett’s previous band. Friends soon joined and what was once a solo endeavor became Hammertowne. The band’s third album, “Hillbilly Heroes,” is set for release on June 30.
“Folks in the industry will tell you how, most of the time, bands don’t last to the third album,” Carroll said “The third album is kind of the bar setter. I’m more excited about this record than any project I’ve ever been a part of. We’ve got, I think, really great songs to work with.”
Carroll knows his way around a good song, too. His compositions have been recorded and popularized by, among many others, two longtime headliners at the Festival of the Bluegrass — the Lonesome River Band (which tops Thursday’s abbreviated bill) and Russell Moore and IIIrd Tyme Out (which leads the Friday lineup).
While a few of the Hammertowne members have played the Festival of the Bluegrass previously in other groups, Carroll hasn’t. Like many, though, he has been a patron.
“I attended that festival for the first time in 1985, when it was still at Masterson Station Park, but haven’t been back since it moved to the Horse Park. Still, it’s one of those great festivals, like Bill Monroe’s festival in Bean Blossom, Indiana, which we got to play last year (and will again next week).
“A lot of people don’t realize this, but 2017 is only our fourth year as a touring band. When you look at the tradition of the Festival of the Bluegrass and the bands that have come across the stage … I mean, we could not be any more excited. This is one of those bucket list festivals. It was on our list, certainly, when we first formed this group. We were so thrilled to find out that we made the bill, so we’re super excited to be there this year.”
If you go
Festival of the Bluegrass
When: June 8-11
Where: Kentucky Horse Park Campground, 4089 Ironworks Parkway
Tickets: $10 (June 11 only), $20 (June 8 only), $50 (June 9 only), $55 (June 10 only); $100-$115 (entire festival)
Call: 859-253- 0806
6:30 p.m.: Camp Kids
7:30 p.m.: Custom Made Bluegrass
9:00 p.m.: Flatt Lonesome
10:30 p.m.: Lonesome River Band
1 and 8 p.m.: Sideline
2 and 7 p.m.: Hammertowne
3 and 10 p.m.: Newtown
4 and 9 p.m.: Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper
5 p.m.: Cumberland Gap Connection
6 and 11:00 p.m.: Russell Moore and IIIrd Tyme Out
12:00 p.m.: Open Stage
1 and 10:30 p.m.: The Wooks
2 and 6:00 p.m.: Joe Mullins and the Radio Ramblers
3 and 11 p.m.: Town Mountain
4 and 7 p.m.: The Grascals
5 and 8:00 p.m.: Band of Ruhks
9:00 p.m.: Seldom Scene
10:00 a.m.: True Life Travelers
11:15 a.m.: Dry Branch Fire Squad