Bluegrass resonates across mountain towns, and Jackson is no exception. On Sunday the sound returns to a Tetons stage as Dead Winter Carpenters headline this week’s Concerts on the Commons.
Down the road a few hundred miles from Lake Tahoe a twang came through the radio as a reaction to the Nashville country of the 1950s. The Bakersfield Sound that Buck Owens and Merle Haggard helped shape evolved over the years, taking on the notes of indie and bluegrass, until the Dead Winter Carpenters emerged in 2010.
Having performed with new-age folk greats like Railroad Earth and the Infamous Stringdusters, the Dead Winter Carpenters offer something that Concert on the Commons co-producer Ethan Oxman said differentiates them from the standard form of folk/Americana.
“The drummer creates a fuller sound,” he said. “When you’re on a bigger stage outside, it’s important to have a fuller sound. It’s the heartbeat of music. That resonates with everyone when there are some good drums in there.”
But rhythm guitarist and primary songwriter Jesse Dunn suggests the variation from traditional bluegrass has more to do with what songs are played instead of what instruments are on stage.
“If you’ve never seen us and you’re expecting bluegrass and we pull out a Metallica cover, you’ll be a little taken back,” Dunn said. “It’s a little ‘bluegrassy,’ if you want to call it that.”
Regardless, the group leans on the acoustic, the sorts of instruments you find around a mountain campfire.
“You kind of use the resources that you have,” Dunn said. In those mountainous areas, “you have acoustic instruments and it’s an outlet, a way to entertain.”
Oxman agreed that this is the American music that rolled down from the Appalachians and found a home in mountain regions across the country.
“When you go to a town outside of the cities,” Oxman said, “who are the musicians? They are playing jazz and folk and bluegrass. … It’s music that you can just set up and play at a house or a campfire. That’s kind of the biggest genre in Jackson.”
Dunn found bluegrass through listening to the Grateful Dead, which led to Neil Young, Del McCoury and Merle Haggard.
“We’re pretty heavily influenced by the Bakersfield Sound,” he said, but “we have two sides. One is more straightforward bluegrass tunes, then we delve into the alt-country/rock genre.”
Either way, the concerts, he said, turn into ski town-style dance parties with rich storytelling.
The Dead Winter Carpenters’ second appearance in the Tetons kicks off at 5 p.m. Sunday with opening act Off Hand Chance. There is no cover charge to the outdoor event in Teton Village Commons.