Yonder Mountain String Band Bring Rock Spirit To Its Bluegrass Sound Via ‘Get Yourself Outside’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

Yonder Mountain String Band has gone through some lineup changes in its history. The newest member of the band is multi-instrumentalist Nick Piccininni, who joined in 2020. No matter who is in the band, you know what to expect from this band. You’ll hear a lot of uptempo bluegrass songs with some picking that is good enough to stand alongside some of the bluegrass greats. You’ll also hear a lot of lyrics that you find yourself singing as you listen. 

The formula hasn’t changed on the band’s new album Get Yourself Outside, which was recorded during the shutdown caused by COVID-19. The album contains everything that has made Yonder Mountain String Band so great for more than 20 years. Of the album, bassist Ben Kaufmann said, “We want the listener to get outside of your own head, get outside the box or container that you’ve created around yourself—look outside and see what else is out there.”  

If you’re familiar with this band, you have probably wondered at some point how the members manage to bring so much rock and roll spirit to the bluegrass sound. This is particularly true if you’ve ever seen the band perform live. While it’s true that it’s not unusual for a bluegrass band to shred, this band brings a little something more. It’s almost as if a bunch of punks got together to play bluegrass music. “I Just Can’t” is a great example of this. At the beginning of the song, you hear some absolute shredding on the mandolin. As the song progresses, you hear a chugging bass line as well as some shredding on the banjo and acoustic guitar. If ever there was a bluegrass song made for stage diving, this is it.

You can sense the effect that the pandemic may have had on the making of this album. It comes through mostly in the tone of the songs. While “Small House” and “If Only” aren’t really sad songs, they are kind of subdued. That being said, “If Only” is a showcase particularly for the impressive banjo and mandolin parts. Oh, and the fiddle solo is pretty solid too.

Something about “Broken Records” is reminiscent of Willie Nelson. It’s the style more than anything else. Like a lot of Nelson’s songs, this one is warm and celebrates the simple things like flipping over an old 45. The melody is pretty simple and has a good groove that can get you moving. The lyrics not only tell a good story, but also get you to sing along.

Get Yourself Outside by Yonder Mountain String band is an antidote for feeling down. These 11 songs just make you feel good, like putting on your favorite sweater to ward off the cold. The melodies might not be boot-stompers, but even in the subdued melodies, you can hear just how quickly the fingers move on the instruments.

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