The Show

Yonder Mountain String Band

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The Show Review

by William Ruhlmann

Colorado-based neo-bluegrass quartet Yonder Mountain String Band are 11 years into their career and remain a unit with mixed intentions, the instrumentation of banjo, mandolin, guitar, and bass suggesting a bluegrass lineup minus the fiddle, although the group members' sensibility seems closer to Neil Young than Bill Monroe. Hence, they have attracted a following on the jam band circuit, but no attention to speak of from Nashville. Their fourth studio album, The Show, won't change things much. It's been produced by Tom Rothrock, whose other clients have included Beck and Foo Fighters, and he has given it a rock sound, focusing on giving rich body to Ben Kaufmann's bass even on the tracks (about half the album) when Elvis Costello sideman Pete Thomas isn't sitting in on drums. As is true of most bluegrass bands, however, the picking is what counts, not the songs, even though the players clearly intend otherwise. The album consists entirely of original compositions written by the bandmembers, and the CD booklet provides lyrics to them. Yet it's not Kaufmann's philosophical reflection "Complicated" ("I don't believe that/I was born this complicated"), nor guitarist Adam Aijala and banjoist Dave Johnston's declaration that "Rain Still Falls" that are most memorable here. It's the extended interaction the musicians exhibit in between the verses, suggestive of the jamming they get into on their several live albums and in their shows.

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