YONDER MOUNTAIN STRING BAND > The Show

Four-piece outfit Yonder Mountain String Band has been pegged as a “bluegrass Grateful Dead,” given its affinity for traditional instruments, marathon stage shows and down-home lyrics.

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YONDER MOUNTAIN STRING BAND

The Show

(FROG PAD)

[Rating: 3.5 stars]

Four-piece outfit Yonder Mountain String Band has been pegged as a “bluegrass Grateful Dead,” given its affinity for traditional instruments, marathon stage shows and down-home lyrics. The Colorado-based, road-tested group has been a staple on the festival scene, and since its inception over 10 years ago, has garnered a diverse and loyal fan base.

With Adam Aijala on guitar, Jeff Austin on mandolin, Dave Johnston on banjo and Ben Kaufmann on upright bass, YMSB boasts a typical set-up. But fine, rapid-fire picking aside, YMSB’s four-part harmonies and self-penned songs give the band a brand all its own. The tunes—typically upbeat and in the past bearing folksy names like “Half Moon Rising,” “Southbound” and “40 Miles from Denver,” are proven crowd pleasers.

With four albums to its credit, the band releases the Tom Rothrock (Beck, Elliott Smith, Foo Fighters)-produced The Show. Lead singing duties are shared by the band, primarily Kaufmann and Austin, both of whom possess pleasant, blendable voices. Slicker than the rough-hewn, vintage sounds of Old Crow Medicine Show, but not as refined as the The Weepies folk-pop, The Show falls in that nebulous catch-all of “Americana” where folk, blues, bluegrass and rock collide.

The album kicks off with catchy romp “Out of the Blue,” which encourages listeners to “hold out” for the best and “step outside” of their reservations. A memorable, repeating guitar lick and impassioned, unrestrained vocals grab you from the start. The Show finds the band heeding its own aforementioned advice to dump the ordinary, and does so primarily by fueling half its tracks with drums, courtesy of Pete Thomas (Elvis Costello).

“Fingerprint” is a blistering blues-rock, rhythm-driven song about a criminal on the run. Sequenced early on in the track listing, it’s a tough tune to follow because everything else sounds light in comparison. “Honestly” sports a ‘70s-era singer/songwriter influence, while “Dreams” is a blithe track with shades of Neil Young, complete with wistful harmonica solo. Thirteen original tracks, including the standout “Steep Grade, Sharp Curves,” are evidence of a band that is set to join the jam-band ranks of Phish and Dave Matthews Band while continuing to carve out just enough new territory to keep fans coming back to the live show.

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