Yonder Mountain takes new dirrection to the peak


By Barry Gilbert
St. Louis Post-Dispatch


May 30, 2006

YonderMountain String Band
"Yonder Mountain String Band"
Grade: A

"Just turn 'em up and let 'em go," the Yonder Mountain boys sing on "How 'bout You," a standout track from their stunning new CD.

Feedback over the first few seconds of opening track "Sidewalk Stars" signals that this is a new direction for this progressive bluegrass outfit from Colorado by way of Urbana, Ill. -- if the cover art of a rooftop cityscape hadn't aready done that.

The band has turned to producer Tom Rothrock (Foo Fighters, James Blunt, Beck) for its fourth studio CD and added occasional electric guitar, drums (Pete Thomas of Elvis Costello's Attractions) and piano to their mix of bass, banjo, madolin and acoustic guitar.

Ben Kaufmann (bass), Dave Johnston (banjo), Jeff Austin (mandolin) and Adam Aijala (guitar) also have written most of the songs together for the first time, melding their ideas as well as their voices.

The result is an acoustic based rock album that still has one foot solidly in a traditional string-band structure, with the banjo and bass percolating in the basement as the acoustic guitars and mandolins chase each other around the house.

"Angel" is a drumless, nonelectric gothic love song, easily imagined as a Led Zeppelin tune with Jimmy Page subbing rock guitar for its fiddle solo.

"Midwest Gospel Radio" is a moody, spacey instrumental, while "Troubled Mind" is classic country that would be at home on a George Jones record, but done at acoustic hyperspeed.

Every track is a keeper, and "Yonder Mountain String Band" is a rousing success from a band that long ago proved itself to be virtuoso musicians.