Newtown features five artists demonstrating a vast array of acoustic music styling. Based out of Lexington, Kentucky, Newtown accurately cites their obvious local musical influences. The band is able to journey into a realm of their own while still maintaining the spirit of the legendary bluegrass and “Newgrass” sounds created within the walls of Lexington’s Red Slipper Lounge during the mid 70’s.
The band was started by Kati Penn, a talented fiddle player and vocalist from Frankfort, Kentucky. Kati is unique in her ability to maintain the philosophy of a band of equal parts.
Jr Williams complements his wife, Kati, with amazing high harmony and lead vocals along with persistently tasteful banjo and guitar playing.
Clint Hurd, of Eidson, Tennessee, is our newest member playing the mandolin and singing some lead, and harmony vocals. Clint sings nearly any part thrown his direction and is also can play some banjo when he’s called to do so.
On guitar is C.J. Cain, a Lexington native and graduate of the University of Kentucky. C.J.’s guitar style exemplifies an eclectic musical background and desire to reach outside the box.
Terry Poirier is the band’s bass player. Originally from New Brunswick, Canada now living in Lexington, KY, Terry has become the backbone of the band’s groove and is exceptionally gifted in the art of music and recording. Together, the band blends their vastly different musical influences to deliver a sound of their own.
Newtown create their sound as a cohesive musical unit with a tangible diversity to which all listeners can relate.
What folks are saying about NewTown
“..count yourself lucky if you have this recording in your hands or in your ears. Bands like NewTown are not by any means common; they’re not made every day. It takes sweat equity, passion, patience and vision.”– John Cowan
“I’ve known the musicians that make up NewTown for quite some time now, each one so talented in their own right. With Harlan Road, NewTown has created a sound that really lets each member’s individual talent shine through, while still keeping the sound of a unified band. Along with producer Barry Bales, they’ve created an album that I’m sure you’ll enjoy!” –Sierra Hull
“The pure, sincere voice of Kati Penn blends honestly with husband Jr. Williams and guitarist Hayes Griffin on Newtown’s latest project – “Harlan Road”!! Eleven very well-crafted, carefully selected songs come to life with great arrangements from producer Barry Bales and outstanding performances from the entire band!! It hasn’t left my CD player since I put it in my truck!!!” – Jerry Salley
360 Magazine – “NewTown is an eclectic ensemble of five prestigious musicians whom come in concert to usher in a fresh Newgrass sound with a dash of Jazz, Contemporary Country alongside a pinch of Americana and Folk. Kati Penn, an award-winning fiddler, possesses a rich and velvety vocal tone, but when mated with her husband Jr. Williams’ vocals and banjo emerges into a whole other stratosphere. The chemistry between the two of them is undeniably contagious. Rounding out the band are: Travis Anderson (bass), Mitchell Cannon (mandolin) and Hayes Griffin (guitar). This critically acclaimed album is composed of eleven searing tracks.”
Americana Rhythm Music Magazine (Greg Tutwiler) – “Kentucky Bluegrass is some of the hottest around right now, and NewTown is one of the bands out front. The CD could be the one to keep your eyes on this year.”
AXS.com (Donna Nolan-Wilson) – “The producers and the group did a great job on this project translating the songs into a unique and very listenable collection. Over all this is a CD that any true traditional country or bluegrass fan should enjoy.
“Come Back To Me” is exactly the type of song that one would expect to be closing a CD of this magnitude. It is the CD’s only duet and it is a powerful song that should leave the listener wanting more from the band.”
BBC Radio Kent (Dave Cash) – “Harlan Road CD is the best Bluegrass I’ve heard in years.”
Bluegrass Today (John Lawless) – “Harlan Road is a very satisfying record. Strong material, sterling performances, and transparent audio. What’s not to like? Their sound is hard-edged contemporary bluegrass, modern yet still representing the bluegrass traditions of their Kentucky roots. This is a terrific project.”
Country Music People Magazine UK (David Allan) – “. . . really cool bluegrass. Wonderfully invigorating throughout with some really outstanding musicianship. Give it a go, you’ll feel better for it!”
Country Music People Magazine UK (Chris Smith) – “Right from the off we have examples of exceptional musicianship and sublime vocals. By the band’s own admission this does stray a little from the perhaps conventional definition of true bluegrass but those detours and variations makes it so much more interesting. There is a distinct Americana feel to Wildfire and a delightful historical starkness to the vocals on Hard Times and an almost rock/boogie shuffle to Can’t Let Go, yet throughout that traditional bluegrass instrumentation maintains an important link with the basic genre. I particularly enjoyed the opener, both as a song in its own right and as a choice of track to be the first one up because it sets the degree of expectation so well, similarly the slow waltz of Come Back To Me achieves the objective of leaving the listener wanting more at the end. Meanwhile grab yourselves a long luxurious listen to this album, if Bluegrass is even remotely your thing you are not likely to regret doing so.”
CMR Nashville – Europe’s #1 Country Station (Lee Williams) – “New Town -what a refreshing Bluegrass sound with a modern feel. I will play this a lot!”
Country Standard Time (Rick Moore) – “The band turns in tight, solid performances throughout, surprising considering that three of the members – the guitarist, bassist and mandolinist – are recent additions. If this lineup hangs together for some road time and a couple more albums, they could find themselves swimming in the same pond as Dailey & Vincent and other major modern bluegrassers who are popularizing the genre.”
The Culture News (David Serero) – “Harlan Road is absolutely phenomenal!”
Flashpoint Arts (Jeff Miller) – “The instruments (fiddle, guitar, banjo, mandolin, bass) involved may cause one to pigeonhole them as a typical Bluegrass outfit. That would be a mistake. I should say that rather than typical Bluegrass, they are Bluegrass PLUS. While they are capable of playing a Monroe stomp and they likely know Salty Dog Blues inside out, that’s not what you will hear on the CD. Their Bluegrass roots are certainly evident, but the writing, chord progressions and vocal stylings are out and out contemporary/progressive . . . Their sound is clear, pure, straightforward and uniquely its own. This CD has 11 cuts, 4 by songwriter Tyler Childers and no covers of standard Bluegrass literature. It is respectful of its origins, but takes the listener in other, new directions.”
ISA Radio France (Mike Penard) – “NewTown is an extremely talented band. Their Harlan Road album shines with such good songs. The subtle instrumentation by tried and true musicians provides such richness of sound meshed with stunning vocals. “
Lonesome Road Review (Donald Teplyske) – “A strength of the group is the diversity having the fronting one-two singing punch of spouses Kati Penn (fiddle) and Jr. Williams (banjo). NewTown takes full advantage of this, allowing the couple to balance off each other throughout the recording. A contemporary-sounding bluegrass band, NewTown doesn’t wander too far from the core of the music—rural events, hard-living, simple pleasures. Key cuts: “Can’t Let Go,” “Harlan Road,” “The Crows and the Jakes,” and “Drifter Blues.”
Midwest Book Review/CD Shelf (James A Cox) – “ Harlan Road is a music album embodying the salt-of-the-earth drive to persevere through both good times and bad . . . there is a rich, multi-layered quality to these country-spirit songs. The CD is a “must” for bluegrass connoisseurs!”
Midwest Record Recap – “Modern bluegrass as opposed to new grass, this bunch brings one of the strongest breaths of fresh air we’ve heard in bluegrass in quite some time and they do it without really turning anything on its head. With solid work from every quadrant—singing, writing, picking, etc. Tasty, solid stuff that gives you another view of “Justified”‘s Harlan. Hot stuff throughout.
Music News Austin (Rick Moore) – “In the tradition of the best Bluegrass records, this album is a real representation of the human condition, with excellent singing and playing that drive home the authenticity of the lyrics to some fine story songs. From the pictures of tobacco fields and coal trains painted in the lonesome title track, to subjects like thoughts of mortality and death (“The Crows and the Jakes”), poverty (“Hard Times”), and failed relationships (“Can’t Let Go,” which was also recorded by Lucinda Williams), this is an album of songs for the masses. That isn’t to say that it’s as depressing as an old Delta Blues record. But it aims squarely at the struggles and hardships of Everyman, taken more from Ralph Stanley’s Appalachian playbook than Bill Monroe’s Western Kentucky one. The standout cut here is the album’s final song, “Come Back to Me.” This heart-wrenching duet finds Jr. and Kati each taking a verse and harmonizing beautifully, with Jr. in particular killing his part. They could almost pass for Vince Gill and Patty Loveless, only maybe better.”
Music Matters Magazine (Jason Evans) – “One could easily compare Kati to the likes of great vocalists such as Allison Krauss, Rhonda Vincent or Patty Loveless as her vocals are just as diverse. Kati and Jr. take turns on singing lead but you will quickly find that the magic happens when the couple harmonize together. Come Back to Me, The final track of the album, showcases these harmonies and are of the caliber of a Brad Paisley and Allison Krauss or Vince Gill and Patty Loveless duet. Harlan Road is a laid back listen while rocking on the front porch tasting your favorite moonshine or shot of whiskey. “
MUSICROW (Robert K. Oermann) – “Kentucky’s NewTown brings a modern sensibility to song selection and a vaguely jazzy sensibility to playing. This yearning-for-love CD title tune showcases both. Highly listenable, as is the entire set.”
Nashville Music Guide (Sherryl Craig) – “NewTown will take you back in time through a haunting journey of mesmerizing tales of the hills, the hollers, and the hard times. This new album expresses the struggles we experience in life and how each one touches us. How losing faith and hope and sometimes making the decision to leave this world is still empowered with love . . . ”As I bid this world goodbye” . . . it touches home for so many. The title track is a beautiful song filled with high energy fiddles and howling banjos. The vocals are rich and passionate. It speaks of a desire for deep love and how it comes and goes through our lives.”
No Fences Magazine Germany (Harald Harland) – “With their sound they have created a mélange between bluegrass, jazz and other contemporary styles that will appeal more than bluegrass fans. By alternating vocals and tempos as well as themes, NewTown’s Harlan Road CD is full of surprises with each track.”
Nuts About Country (Cheryl Harvey Hill) – “Harlan Road, combines outstanding vocal performances with exceptional instrumental backing by every member of this amazing band. The first single to be released from the album is the title track which really sets the bar high for the rest of the album but this band can and will, effortlessly keep you entertained through the additional ten tracks. All of the tracks were excellent . . . the instrumentals were so uplifting I could simply lose myself in the music. As for the stand out track for me, it would have to be the hauntingly beautiful final track, “Come Back To Me”. It is such a simple song but the vocal harmonies are beyond splendid and although the instrumentals are subtle on this cut, they permeate your being in a most gentle way so the music stays with you long after the CD ends.”
One Stop Country – “Harlan Road is filled with captivating vocals and outstanding instrumentation that surround the songs that are driven by themes of loneliness and heartbreak; each standing unique from one another but working together cohesively. NewTown is not afraid to take some risks that stretch the boundaries to give this album a very fresh and modern feel, but they also know the perfect moments to reel it in and keep the purists satisfied.”
ParcBench.com (Greg Victor) – “Harlan Road. It is one of the best new bluegrass albums out lately and demands attention from those who love the genre. On the eleven song collection, NewTown covers all the hoped-for territory (including some absolutely stunning, mutually-dependent instrumentals) while also expanding all expectations with some gorgeous contemporary songs that feel so fresh one might not even consider them bluegrass on first listen. Make no mistake though, they belong in the bluegrass classification… just somewhere on the edge, where things get interesting. NewTown deserves praise, not only for the quality of their musicianship, but also for selecting songs that provide the lifeblood of the form—fresh material pushing the artistic frontier. NewTown loves songs that tell a good story and the songs on Harlan Road are each a chapter in a musical novel of hard-scrabble life (that brings out the best in musical expression). Like a life-sustaining flame, Kati Penn’s lead vocals can either roar like a fire on the move, or can flicker with the vulnerability of a candle in a breeze. . Jr. Williams’ vocals are equally strong, possessing the two required qualities of memorable bluegrass singing—loneliness and earnestness.”
Essential Downloads: “All That I Can Take,” “The Crows and The Jakes,” “Come Back To Me.”
Prescription Bluegrass (W.J. Hallock) – “HARLAN ROAD comes across as first class in every way, shape and form. When you bring five hot pickers into the studio, add a Producer with the stature of Barry Bales and bring a boatload of songs from seven different top song writers to the mix, you have a right to expect good results. . . a very well done project. Do you NEED to get this CD? You bet . . . and enjoy!”
Two songs here blow me away! The very last song on the CD is called “Come Back to Me” and it was written by none other than Jon Weisberger and Jeremy Garrett. The vocals, especially when Jr. and Kati are singing together, make this a duet that shines. Emotion, passion and pure beauty jump out of the speakers, and they own this song! On the solos, guitarist Hayes Griffin uses his new Wayne Henderson “Dream” guitar to play a twin guitar line, in what appears to be Drop D tuning, that sparkles and lights up the song. Picking this song for inclusion was a stroke of genius!
My second favorite is “Hard Times,” by Tyler Childers. Jr growls the superb lyrics to this story song as if he has been in the desperate shoes of the main character. Jr caught just the right feeling and pulls all the genuine sadness and pain out of this minor key tune. It starts off, and ends, with a low rumble of the bowed upright bass of Travis Anderson, and the ominous sense of dread sets the stage for the other instruments to carry this composition into “great listening” territory. Bass man, Travis, powers this arrangement along masterfully, and I kept hitting re-play just to hear the “rumble.”
Radio Euroherz Germany (Doc Schulze) – “Newgrass at its best!” Great musicians combined with the great voices of Kati Penn & Jr. Williams have caught the ears of my country radio show listeners. The variety of songs on “Harlan Road” are perfect for country music lovers. To me it’s one of the best CDs in 2016!”
Radio Voce Spazio -Highway 61 Radio Show Italy( Massimo Ferro) – “I love their music, they sound strongly rooted in traditional bluegrass but at the same time sound fresh and appealing… and sparkling too. And finally Keti Penn is a wonderful singer whichever is the song she sing!”
Rambles.net (Jerome Clark) – “Harlan Road is a strong album that bristles with good songs, able picking and ear-pleasing harmonies.
The Lexington, Kentucky-grown NewTown takes an approach that, while not oldtime in form, does suggest an awareness of older mountain-music traditions. It all works to splendid effect, and lead vocalist Kati Penn’s limpid singing is definitely a plus. NewTown, in short, is well worth a visit.”
“Same Roots, Different Fruits” Syndicated Radio Show (Bryan Chalker) – “This is a masterful exercise in progressive bluegrass but without losing the very essence of the genre. The lead vocals from Kati and Jr. Williams are a delight, as is the tight-as-a-drum accompaniment, with not a wasted note. Just when I think that bluegrass will stagnate, along comes a band of the calibre of NewTown and gives hope for the future of this inherently American folk music. Every track is a winner and I’ll be programming it with love and affection on my show. Congratulations on a triumphant album!”
The Alternate Root (Danny McCloskey) – “Harlan Road travels to the future with a Modern take on tradition that gives Bluegrass a tomorrow as NewTown put a foot on the accelerator as album opener “All That I Can Take” tracks across U.S. highways to hit the beaches of Mexico, admits to pitfalls as it looks towards personal futures in “The Crows and the Jakes”, and tames the flames of “Wildfire” with quiet strums and picking.”
The Wheel Magazine Germany (Herbert Arnold) – “From the first notes of this CD you know it is extraordinary.”
Top Country Hits Radio Uruguay (Raul Tejeiro) – “For those who think Country Music is dead, sit down and listen to NewTown. They play pure, powerful and amazing Bluegrass. Great musicianship, strong vocals and songs, plus Kati Penn Williams’ voice is one of the best in the scene nowadays. This is one CD that you do not want to miss.”
WDCV FM (Davis Tracy) – “Kati Penn Williams’ voice is pitch perfect and her fiddle playing rocks.
Mitchell’s kickoffs and breaks are tasteful, and harmoniously complementing of Kati’s introductions. Of course, Jr.’s work is rhythm perfect and balanced. All these folks sing with convincing heart, whether they’re leading or harmonizing.
Hayes’s counterpoint on tunes like Harlan Road and his novel creativity on his tune “The Feast of the Gryphon” are the works of a seriously talented guitarist. The 3/4 time of “The Heart You’ve Been Tending” has a cajun flavor that urges the listener to head for the dance floor.
Travis Anderson’s upright bass work keeps Newtown rolling on straight tracks through every cut on this album.
Choosing the works of Tyler Childers, Charles James Cain, Jon Weisberger and Jeremy Garrett displays Newtown’s recognition of fine compositions, to which they lend their interpretation which widens the breadth of appeal of each tune.
This is an album that welcomes repeated listening and each time I play it, I find more reasons to include cuts on the radio. I hope to see Newtown’s stage performance at a festival soon.”
The WWB WorldWideBluegrass.com (Gracie Muldoon-Davis) – “So very excited about the new HARLAN ROAD CD from Bluegrass super talented band NewTown. This group is a package of dynamite! One of Kentucky’s finest with Kati Penn, an award winning fiddler, super vocals, and pretty to boot, and her husband Jr Williams, superb banjo-picking always, and the rest of their sparkling compadres, you just know it’s gonna be “hawt”. Just in time for summer temperatures! Bring it on!”
Harlan Road (track)
Music News Atlanta (Rick Moore) – “No wimpy major chord progressions or happy melodies here, and that’s a good thing. Instead, the song leans on minor chords and a catchy fiddle and banjo line to create a lonesome and urgent tone. Kati plays fiddle with a natural fluidity that brings to mind Mark O’Connor, and mandolinist Mitchell Cannon shows how less can really be more. Guitar player Hayes Griffin is just tasteful and original enough to stop short of inviting a Tony Rice comparison. And Jr. is no Del McCoury-type high tenor singer, at least not here, wisely sticking with a key that’s good for his upper bari range, ala Tyminski or Stapleton. If this band is as hot live as they are on record, it’s going to be a good year for festival-goers. NewTown may be the sleeper band of the year in the genre.”