Yonder Mountain String Band’s first new album in two years, Love. Ain’t Love, is undeniably the Colorado-based progressive bluegrass outfit’s most surprising, creative, and yes, energetic studio excursion to date. Songs like “Chasing My Tail” and “Alison” are rooted in tradition but as current as tomorrow, animated by electrifying performance, vivid production, and the modernist power that has made Yonder one of the most popular live bands of their generation. Melding sophisticated song craft, irrepressible spirit, and remarkable instrumental ability, Love. Ain’t Love is a testament to Yonder Mountain String Band’s organic, dynamic, and intensely personal brand of contemporary bluegrass-fueled Americana.
Yonder founding members Adam Aijala (guitar), banjo player Dave Johnston, and bassist Ben Kaufmann reconfigured Yonder Mountain String Band as a traditional bluegrass instrumental five-piece in 2014 with the recruitment of new players Allie Kral (violin) and Jacob Jolliff (mandolin). The reconstituted group debuted with 2015’s acclaimed Black Sheep, but truly gelled as they toured, the new players’ personalities seamlessly blending and elevating the intrinsically tight Yonder sound. Yonder made certain to show off the current roster’s growing strength with the 2017 release of Mountain Tracks: Volume 6, the first installment in their hugely popular live recording series since 2008.
“This lineup just keeps getting better,” Aijala says. “The more gigs you get under your belt, the better you get. Obviously. But the confidence I have in these individual musicians, I’m amazed at some of the places we go together on stage.”
Laced with interstitial dialogue, music, sound effects, and other overlapping ephemera, Love. Ain’t Love, is by design Yonder’s most ingenious studio collection thus far. Songs like “Take A Chance On Me” and the heavy metal-inspired breakdown, “Fall Outta Line,” see the quintet touching upon FM pop, country rock, funk, world music, and so much more; adopting traditional sonic and lyrical idioms to mask deeper and darker personal truths. “It’s a little more eclectic,” Aijala says. “None of us grew up with bluegrass so there are always other influences in there. I think this record is a bit more reminiscent of our live show, with different genres and different types of songs.”
2018 will see Yonder continue its seemingly endless touring, leading towards the 20th anniversary of their initial coming together, an irrefutably momentous occasion. “When we were first starting, our creativity was rooted in rebelliousness. Now, there’s a greater conscious awareness and attention to detail that we’re bringing to our writing and recording. Our nature and instincts remain progressive. We’re just doing it in a way that’s sharper, more musical, and way more satisfying,” says Kaufmann. Nearly two decades in, Yonder Mountain String Band is still utterly unto themselves, a one-of-a-kind, once-in-a-lifetime combo whose inventiveness, versatility, and sheer imagination shows no sign of winding down.