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Mountain Tracks, Vol. 3 (Live)

Yonder Mountain String Band

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Album Review

This double-disc set collects the highlights from a two-night concert by the Yonder Mountain String Band held at Planet Bluegrass in Lyons, CO, on September 12 and 13, 2003, at the Kinfolk Celebration the band throws each year for its fans. A bluegrass/jam band hybrid, Yonder Mountain is certain proof that the two genres have as many similarities as differences. Both favor virtuoso musicianship and group dynamics over song structure, with the song becoming simply the springboard to long, soaring breaks. It should come as no surprise, then, that the best songs here are covers (Willie Nelson's "Bloody Mary Morning" and John Hartford's neo-hippie anthem "Holding" on disc one, and two traditional pieces on disc two, "Little Rabbit" and "Old Plank Road"), while the group's originals seem rather interchangeable. YMSB occupies the same sort of goofy universe that Phish does, and when you're among the converted, it's magical, and when you're one of the unconvinced, it's baffling. Putting all that aside, though, these guys are amazing musicians, and the frenetic bluegrass pace of their sets, coupled with the hard left turns into surprising new musical territory, means that while Yonder Mountain may be silly sometimes, they're seldom dull. The conclusion of the second show finds fiddler Darol Anger joining the group for an amazing modal suite that segues Bill Monroe's "Kentucky Mandolin" into a group original called "Peace of Mind," then into another original, "Snow on the Pines," before emerging again into a reprise of "Peace of Mind," all done with kinetic precision and a sound that is completely unique (industrial Appalachian chamber jazz-folk?). It's easy to see why their fan base continues to grow. And how can you fail to smile at a band that ends Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" (a hidden track at the end of the first disc) with a 30-second blast of the theme to the TV show Three's Company? The Yonder Mountain String Band creates a milieu in which such a transition makes perfect sense.

Biography

Formed: Nederland, CO

Genre: Country

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Although the Yonder Mountain String Band was formed in Nederland, CO, its origins go back to Urbana, IL, where college student and banjo player Dave Johnston met mandolin player Jeff Austin. Austin moved west and settled in Nederland. Johnston joined him there, and the two met bass player Ben Kaufmann and guitarist Adam Aijala at a club called the Verve. In December 1998, they formed the Yonder Mountain String Band to open for a band at the Fox Theatre in Boulder. They developed a following among...
Full Bio
Mountain Tracks, Vol. 3 (Live), Yonder Mountain String Band
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