he JackTown Ramblers aren’t limited to bluegrass. Yeah, they pick out tradition like the best of ’em, but they also deliver moments that sway well off the beaten path.
“One of the things that make our band a little different is that we mix in some swing, some gypsy jazz, some David Grisman kind of stuff,” explained JackTown Ramblers lead vocalist and mandolin player Gabriel Wiseman.
That flexibility displayed in the release of Live in Asheville showcases the band’s energy and attitude. It also stands as a tribute to a beloved venue in their western North Carolina home region. It’s a 14-track live album recorded at the Isis Music Hall in Asheville, featuring “no overdubs, redos, or studio magic…just real people playing real music.”
“Isis closed January 1. It was legendary,” Wiseman explained. “We kinda put that out as an homage to them.”
They recently dropped a single recorded at the Music Hall, titled “Little Maggie.”
“We’ve been getting a lot of radio play out of it, which is nice,” Wiseman said.
The band’s tours are mostly regionally in North Carolina, Tennessee, and South Carolina. Last year, they played 57 dates; this year, they have a similar number scheduled for 2023. It sounds as if this level of touring is just about right for Wiseman and his bandmates. They love what they do, but he explained they prefer having life balance as musicians.
“We wanna be at home most nights,” he confessed, stating a desire most touring musicians will appreciate.
As is the case with many in bluegrass, Wiseman picked up his interest in performing from his family members, many of whom were musicians.
“My dad is David Wiseman…he’s a great fiddle and mandolin player,” he said.
Other kinfolks include Lula Belle and Scotty Wiseman and the late Billy Constable.
“I grew up listening to it and hearing it in my living room,” he said. “I picked up the mandolin at age 19, and I just got bit by the bug super bad.”
In addition to Wiseman, the JackTown Ramblers roster include Shannon Leasure (guitar and vocals), Mike Ramsey (bass and vocals), and Brett Setzer (banjo and vocals).
While not yet at work on their next release, Wiseman seems to already know where they’ll point their compass when choosing the next leg of the JackTown Ramblers journey.
“We’re kicking around the idea of an instrumental album,” he revealed. “We’ll probably start working on something this year.”
Wiseman said another thing they look forward to is the festivals booked for this spring. He specifically mentioned the SpringSkunk Music Fest, which happens May 11 through 14 in Greer, South Carolina. Wiseman said he likes it because it features “eclectic kinds of music.”
“I like playing at a festival that’s not just bluegrass,” he added.
Another thing he said he loves is the people involved with roots genres. For him, it’s not just about the music. There’s more to it.
“To me, with bluegrass… we jam together…we share information… it’s such a great community.”
For Wiseman, the end goal is having fun; it’s what he feels sets the JackTown Ramblers apart. It’s not high-brow. They’re not afraid to joke at gigs and don’t take themselves too seriously. For instance, when he sees people he recognizes in the crowd, he takes a humble, self-deprecating approach that surely gets a laugh.
“We always tease them and say, ‘your cable must be out again because you’re back here at a show.’”
In the end, the band’s philosophy is as simple as it can be. “If we can have a good time,” Wiseman summarized, “hopefully they have a good time, too.”