Review by Rusty Pate
Trying to pin Yonder Mountain String Band into one musical genre can be a daunting task.
It would be easy to just call it bluegrass. The instrumentation and impeccable chops certainly fall in line with that genre. But, I am sure the diehard Bill Monroe-school of fans would scoff at that classification.
“The Show,” the band’s latest album, straddles genres rather than being trapped by one. I’m sure fans of Yonder’s unique blend of country, rock and improvisation could care less what it is called. I suspect the average YMSB fan would be just as comfortable listening to jazz or rock than strictly bluegrass.
Traditional music is well represented on this collection. The album opens with the rollicking and frenzied “Out of the Blue,” complete with a jumping rhythm and hot solo sections that intertwine mandolin, banjo and guitar. “Steep Grade, Sharp Curves” tones down the tempo without losing the instrumental intensity. Speaking of instrumentals, no “bluegrass” album would be complete without an instrumental track like “In the Seam.”
Other tracks lean toward twang-heavy country sounds. “Complicated” could fit on a Taylor Swift album. “Belle Parker” and “Fingerprint” would make any NASCAR fan break out a two-step or line dance.
“Isolate” pumps a bass-heavy, droning beat. “Midwest Gospel Radio” sounds like an impromptu jam.
Overall, the songs are good, but the album suffers from a bit of schizophrenia – much like any Jamband studio offering. Country folks will be put off by the experimental tracks and improvisation fans will pine for more flights of virtuosic playing. It does stand up well to multiple listens and the adventurous musical spirit will find plenty to feast on here.