YMSB: Mountain Tracks: Volume 5

By: Bill Clifford

Yonder Mountain String Band is a modern day DIY success story that any aspiring musician, regardless of genre, would be wise to model their own career trajectory after. The Colorado based quartet has been writing, recording and releasing its music via its own record label since its 1999 debut, Elevation,. The band has built its reputation and fan base as a touring stalwart, crisscrossing the globe, performing as a headlining act or at any festival that would have them.

The band has jumped on a bandwagon of artists releasing high quality concert recordings and profiting rather than losing sales to peer-to-peer websites, where such recordings are traded freely. What YMSB is doing differently is using these live CDs to release new music, as opposed to just issuing live renditions of previous studio recordings. It's a concept that follows the band's premise to not play the same setlist twice. Hence, fans get YMSB music they don't already have in their collection.

Mountain Tracks: Volume 5 is a double disc set, with disc one a compilation of live tracks recorded between 2004 and 2007. While the gap time between songs is minimal, several times on disc one, you hear, at the end of a track, an introduction to another song that doesn't follow in sequence. Nonetheless, the thirteen cuts are all representative of the band's high-energy performances and tight musicianship. Highlights include opener "Sideshow Blues," one of several songs written or co-written by Nashville songwriter Todd Snider, which features super fast picking by Jeff Austin (mandolin) and on Dave Johnston. (banjo). Upright bassist Ben Kaufmann's lovelorn heartache ballad "Must Have Had Your Reasons" is a nice change of pace, and of the four, his vocals the most pristine. Austin's "Southbound" was co-written with Benny "Burle" Galloway and is a fine road song that will certainly get feet shuffling, while the disc closing "Ten" is a long and highly improvisational jam that takes the road song meandering in an entirely different direction.

Disc two is a complete set, recorded on July 21, 2007, in Columbus, Ohio. It opens with Austin's crowd banter, "Well, why not? Let's go as those clouds get more purple," referring to growing cumulus above them that day. The "New Horizons > East Nashville Easter > New Horizons" sandwich is an upbeat foot-stomper with beautiful vocal harmonies and interplay between guitarist Adam Aijala and Johnston's banjo, as well as an upright bass solo. "New Horizons" details a farming family's flight from a disparaging but much needed flood in a drought-afflicted town, and touches on the uncertainty of when they'll be able to return. This is the kind of balls-out jam that made a Yonder fan of this critic and is worth the cost of the two disc set alone. The band's take on Bill Monroe's "Kentucky Mandolin" is as fine a tribute to the bluegrass legend as you'll find anywhere. If the back and forth picking between Johnston and Austin doesn't kick up the dirt below your feet then nothing will. Smartly, they close with two upbeat, lengthy, improvisational jams. Again, Kaufmann proves to be the most eloquent vocalist on "Looking Back Over My Shoulder," with three gorgeous solos placed mid-song by all Austin, Aijala and Johnston respectively. It's followed by the much darker but still rollicking "Death Trip," featuring lush acoustic fingerpicking by Johnston.

For the uninitiated, Mountain Tracks: Volume 5 is a fine introduction to YMSB. If you're already a fan, it's a must have addition to your collection.

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[Published on: 8/11/08]

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Comments

kinfolk starstarstarstarstar Mon 8/11/2008 08:30AM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

kinfolk

Ever since the first Yonder show I saw back in 04 I became an instant fan. I got this Album months ago and still listen to it practically every day the two discs not only do a great job capturing the pure energetic rapture that is a YMSB show but I enjoy the mix of both old tracks like 40 Miles to Denver and some of Yonders new stuff like King Ebeneezer

n-1 starstarstarstarstar Mon 8/11/2008 08:32AM
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word

tourfan starstarstarstarstar Mon 8/11/2008 09:27AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Can't wait to see YMSB again at MOEDOWN, gonna be quite a HOEDOWN.

jbleiche Mon 8/11/2008 11:37AM
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this and volume 3 are by far the best mountain tracks, get both of them and listen to them a lot.

ridgerunner6901 starstarstarstar Mon 8/11/2008 07:12PM
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sideshow blues is awesome, check it out guys, worth the 16 bucks

fishbone1 starstarstarstar Tue 8/12/2008 06:40PM
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fishbone1

aw man. when I saw them in StL last february they said they would record us booing them loudly, as if we were booing the other team in the cubs cards rivarly, i thought that was pretty funny as a cubs fan who made the trip. Not to mention Jeff Austin was wearing a cubs shirt! Woo

landoflizards starstarstarstarstar Wed 8/13/2008 03:43PM
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landoflizards

Great album and well written review! I believe their sound guy had a lot to do with this release - wish there was some mention of that - I think that one of the discs is similar to dick's picks, except chosen by their sound engineer ?? can anyone confirm/disconfirm that?

Bill Clifford Wed 8/13/2008 06:09PM
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Landof .... All I can find in that regard is that Ben Kaufman himself picked the tracks on the compilation disc. Can't find any word in PR about whom might have picked the complete set on disc 2. It wouldn't surprise me if you were correct, but I don't have the correct info for you. Sorry about that.

Bryan24 Thu 8/14/2008 08:19AM
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Bryan24

that show in stl was by far one of the best shows i've ever seen.they did this cool twangy version of traffic jam, i really think everyone sould get this show its amazing. and does anyone know if they did throw that booing track on the cd?

makesensetome Thu 8/14/2008 06:42PM
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come to philly

ymsbfan1 starstarstarstarstar Fri 8/15/2008 02:17PM
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FUCKING love YONDER! saw them at the Red Rocks about 2 weeks ago and they killed it. These guys always make me boogie on down, always a good trip to take.

weenhead420 starstarstarstarstar Tue 8/19/2008 06:20PM
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weenhead420

Yonder has been one of my favorite touring bands since my first show at the variety playhouse in Atlanta in 02. I love there live shows, but would love to see them put out a new album as good as Elevation.

chancho starstarstarstarstar Sun 8/24/2008 08:16AM
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definetly a sick album. huge fan of the king ebenezer version and i mean come on sideshow blues by todd snider. yes definetly sick.