Yonder Mountain String Band – Get Yourself Outside
I got turned onto Yonder Mountain String Band very early in their existence by some friends living in Nederland, CO at the same time. Their high-octane mix of bluegrass’s traditional seriousness, a healthy dose of humor, and the tendency to jam without becoming a noodle-fest was perfectly balanced for my ears at the time. I caught the band several over the proceeding years, primarily when they toured the southeast United States, but when I’d visit said friends out west as well.
Old Hands featuring songs of Benny Galloway was (and in many ways still is) a peak studio album for a band that had always been better know for their stage show. Not long after the Old Hands release my tastes and interests shifted and I lost track of YMSB for a while. Much has changed since I last tuned in, but on Get Yourself Outside I found that much has stayed the same as well. YMSB are still a well-oiled bluegrass machine, a steam-powered aeroplane if you will, grounded in strong songwriting with an eye to both the traditional and the progressive and a simpatico that only comes from time in the saddle together.
“Has the world stopped turning round, friends it feels upside down, right became wrong, and all the new songs went up on a shelf,” but thankfully not for long. Like many other artists YMSB responds to pandemic life on Get Yourself Outside, it is hard not too, right from the first lines of “Beside Myself.” Cramped living in close quarters pours out on “Small House,” a track that could be at home on a Jim Lauderdale and Ralph Stanley collaboration.
“Up This Hill” harkens to similar traditional territory while “Out of the Pan” pushes the jam before “Into the Fire” recounts a journey “looking for love grown cold” as it reflects on, and regrets, the combustible state of many relationships, “when the smoke clears and the ashes fall, gonna wonder why we burned at all.”
“Change of Heart” offers a change of pace from the usual YMSB fair as Allie Kral takes the lead. Her vocal recalls a mix of Amy Helm and Margo Price. “Change of Heart” begins as a mysterious moody movement before progressing into an extended instrumental passage. Interplay between guitar, banjo, and fiddle seduces the listener while mandolin and bass push the train ever onward.
After a detour, I am happy to be back on the YMSB track. Adam Aijala, Dave Johnston, Ben Kaufmann, Allie Kral, and Nick Piccininni are clearly rejuvenated and ready for the road after the pandemic induced hiatus. Pick up a copy of Get Yourself Outside and get yourself to a YMSB show soon; they’re on tour all of the US this Spring.