|It is a fair estimate to claim the amount of artists surfacing over the past several years playing string music or Americana has moved as fast as a Tennessee season.
But one of the constants for the brand have been the non-traditional, jamgrass sounds of Yonder Mountain String Band.
Based out of Colorado, the veteran group is kicking off their annual winter tour tonight in Knoxville and will land in Nashville tomorrow night at Marathon Music Works.
The tour has been a mainstay for the group over the years, and they are looking forward to getting back in front of a Nashville crowd.
“You know, it’s been really fun. I think we’ve kind of found our niche there. It has country and bluegrass and we’re the in between, “Adam Aijala said about their steady fan base in the city.
“You see the jamband scene at our shows, but it makes sense. It follows nationwide trends.”
The band, a mix of bluegrass, rock, and a few other things in between, have always treaded their own path from their sound all the way down to the way write and perform.
“As for the traditional bluegrass music, we all really like it. The reason why our band has ‘string band’ in it is because that is really what we wanted to do,” Aijala noted.
“To this day, I still write the same way. I generally go on a cool idea and try to roll with that. When I get together with Dave Johnston, I’ll try to work based on feeling and what has come to me and it’s generally not that bluegrass sounding,” he said about the group’s creative process.
And when it comes to performance, the Yonder Mountain always looks as if they are having the best time on stage and manage to keep it fresh day in and day out.
“We never do the same set list. That’s why it stays fun. There couldn’t be one whole set where we did the exact same thing. It keeps it fun for us and the crowd and those who see us on different nights. We’re doing it for the fans and ourselves,” Aijala said.
This year, the group will be touring in support of their most recent release, The Show and will also perform new material from their upcoming album, which will be released later this year.
Released in 2009, the album went in a different direction from their normal routine as it added a drummer, something in which several other string bands have also followed suite of late.
Also like most to this day, YMSB plays traditional instruments, but they don’t play them in the typical traditional fashion. Performing together since the mid-1990s, the group was on the forefront of the most recent surge in the time-honored music.
Although, they are the first to admit that they might not have been the sole reason string music is as popular today as it was 10 years ago, they do note the perception that they may play an influence down the line.
“I think it’s great. I don’t think we had much to do with it. But there is the domino effect. Maybe if these guys can play acoustic, then maybe we can too,” Aijala added about the rise of artistry in the genre.
“When we started playing High Sierra, we were the only band that didn’t have drums, but most bands in bluegrass festivals now have drums or a kick drum”
“I still think we have our own thing. The more people who get involved, it’s a win for all. It’s a cool little scene. We’ve been around 15 years and we’re still underground, but we’re not mainstream.”
Being part of good company has landed the group some top-notch gigs over the years as they have played several festivals, which include Telluride, Northwest String Summit and Bonnaroo, among many others, and they just landed a spot on this year’s Wakarusa lineup this past week.
On the same note, they are a recent addition to a sold-out taping of the popular Bluegrass Underground series, which takes place in the Cumberland Caverns in McMinnville, Tenn.
After this weekend’s Tennessee run, YMSB will continue through the Southeast with stops in New Orleans, La. at the House of Blues and a double-bill at the Orange Peel in Asheville, N.C.
For information on tickets, visit marathonmusicworks.com, and to visit the group’s website, go to yondermountain.com.