Only the most talented artists can effectively tread between past and present, and at the same time, attempt to foresee the future. Consequently, one must credit Yonder Mountain String Band with maintaining their reverence for the roots, while keeping their contemporary credence intact.
While today’s populist precepts may account for modern bluegrass music’s progressive leanings, pushing those parameters is a risky proposition. Taking a vintage sound and making it conducive enough to generate popular appeal, and bring bluegrass to a level where it achieves wider recognition, takes an inordinate amount of skill, savvy, and dexterity.
Yonder Mountain String Band possesses that and more.
By the band’s own assessment, Yonder has always made it their mission to keep one foot in the bluegrass world and the other firmly implanted in the jam band dynamic. As singer/guitarist Adam Aijala once explained, “We’re now considered the ideal jam band for the bluegrass crowd and a very cool bluegrass band for the jam band devotees. We bring in an audience that’s open to all styles of music and they, in turn, approach what we offer with an open mind.”
Twenty-five years on, the band continues to carefully walk the divide between the two disciplines. Yet as their new album, tellingly-titled Get Yourself Outside, makes it clear, they boast the ability to connect with nearly any crowd, based on sheer melodic prowess alone. The upbeat insistence of opening track Beside Myself, the effusive energy shared in If Only, and even the steady sway of Small House offer a positive perspective at a time when optimism is in a decidedly short supply. The assertive sentiments of Broken Records drive that point home, especially when the singer insists, “I need another sad song like I need another long dark road.”
Perseverance is a priority, now more than ever.
So too, for whatever deeper meaning might be implied, Get Yourself Outside is as effusive than ever, especially when it comes to the upbeat arrangements and the band’s assertive sound. The precision of their performance reflects the fact that they’re a well-synched ensemble that can consistently deliver with decisive determination. That’s evident not only in a rugged instrumental like Into the Fire, but in every song in the set as well.
For those that have followed Yonder Mountain String Band over the course of their career, this ought to come as no surprise whatsoever. As the name implies, Get Yourself Outside finds the band on firm footing.