Music » Critics' Picks

Yonder Mountain String Band with Larry Keel

Friday, January 31; Pageant

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Just as Phish and countless other electric bands stepped up to claim the tripped-out-jam-band legacy bequeathed by the Grateful Dead, several acoustic bands have come along of late to remind us that Jerry was a bluegrass aficionado, too. Though the Yonder Mountain String Band is not expressly a jam band -- it mostly plays straight-ahead bluegrass and mountain ballads -- it's found success with the jam-band crowd, thanks to a penchant for occasional long instrumental excursions (and hey, dig that far-out merch table, man).

The Colorado band actually has roots in Illinois, where mandolin player Jeff Austin hooked up with banjoist Dave Johnston in the wonderfully named outfit the Bluegrassholes. After moving to the mountains, they completed the lineup with guitarist Adam Aijala and bassist Ben Kaufmann. Over the course of four albums (two studio, two live), the band members have proved they can play it straight -- concentrating on relatively staid originals such as "This Lonesome Heart" from Elevation and "A Father's Arms" from Town by Town -- or let their freak flag fly, as on covers of Pink Floyd's "Goodbye Blue Sky" and Peter Tosh's "Legalize It" from the Mountain Tracks albums.

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