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Music Review: Yonder Mountain String Band – Mountain Tracks, Volume 5

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Written by Fumo Verde 

If there were a genre called “high energy bluegrass music,” then Yonder Mountain String Band would be the poster child for it. If you have never been to one of their shows, you are missing something. The level of talent is extraordinary as these four men show how plucking and strumming should be done. This live double-CD pack contains 24 tracks, with some songs only heard at live shows. If bluegrass is your thing, then Mountain Tracks, Volume 5 is something to be added to your collection.

Disc one has eleven songs hand picked by bassist Ben Kauffman who pulled these tracks form live shows ranging from the years 2004 to 2007. “Nothin’ but Nothin’” and “Sideshow Blues” are two song I hope they play at Bonnaroo. “Nothin’ but Nothin’” starts out with a chopping guitar strum as the banjo dances around the bass and mandolin. Though the song only lasts just under three minutes, it feels longer as the music tells a tale of someone who is fed up with another, explaining that this person brought nothing and they will leave with nothing. In other words, don’t come in and try to push this band around.

“Didn’t Go Wrong” is another trip Yonder takes you on. Banjo and mandolin play like a chorus as guitar and bass follow while the lyrics tell the story, “Everywhere I go I keep looking for my baby/ everywhere I look I keep finding she’s gone./ Used to drive her wild, now she’s driving me crazy / damn if the right thing didn’t go wrong / damn if the right thing didn’t go wrong.” Songs like these stay in your head long after you’ve turned off the CD player.

Disc two is from a live show performed in Columbus, Ohio at the Lifestyle Communities Pavilion on July 27, 2007. Listing to this CD you can get a feel for the relationship the band has with their audience. They banter back and forth with each other giving the show a more intimate feel. One of my favorite tracks on this disc was “40 Miles from Denver.” This song is a little slower than some of the others I have mentioned but it still has that foot-tapping beat to it. “Kentucky Mandolin” is different than your average bluegrass tune. The mandolin itself has that old Euro feel to it and when mixed with the Americana banjo sound, these two distinct instruments can conjure up ideas of haunted swamps, far-off bogs, and sleepy hallows all with a southern twang to it.

If you ever go to a Yonder show, and lets say they play three nights in a row, you will not hear the same music all three nights. Each night will contain different songs than the night before so will walk away with an array of music that Yonder has put out over the past decade. Mountain Tracks, Vol. 5 has to be one of the finest CDs YMSB has put together and I’m sure there will be more to come from such an amazingly talented band.

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  • Mat Brewster

    The YMSB are a tremendous live act and their other disks in this series have yet to disappoint. Looking forward to hearing this one. Thanks for the review.