Colorado progressive bluegrass veterans The Yonder Mountain String Band have been going strong for almost 25 years, and they're now set to release their first album in five years, Get Yourself Outside, this Friday (2/25) via Frog Pad Records (pre-order). The band -- founding members Adam Aijala, Ben Kaufmann, and Dave Johnston, plus fiddle player Allie Kral (who joined in 2015) and new multi-instrumentalist Nick Piccininn -- began writing the album remotely during the pandemic, and eventually convened at Cinder Sound Studio with co-producer and engineer John McVey, and the long leadup to the studio time made for an album that came together like no other Yonder Mountain LP.

"When the pandemic hit, and the music touring business shut down, none of us in Yonder Mountain knew when we’d next see each other in person let alone be able to play shows again," Ben Kaufmann tells us. "The band members are literally scattered across every continental US time zone. And while Covid-19 shut down so much of our lives, it didn’t stop our desire to create. We began to share new music ideas with each other during weekly Zoom meetings. Those ideas became more fully formed over the course of a few months and for the first time in the nearly 25 year history of Yonder Mountain we actually fully pre-produced what would become Get Yourself Outside."

"Whereas with previous studio albums we allowed ourselves space and time in the studio to write and create," Ben continued, "new pandemic realities meant that we needed to be ready to go the moment we got a green light to travel. As a result, this new album had a complete blueprint before we showed up ready to record."

The album's 11 songs run the gamut from fast, rollicking bluegrass to country ballads to experiments with other genres like the soul/funk-tinged "Broken Records," and their dedication to keeping things almost entirely acoustic (and without drums) makes this record sound totally authentic and not tied to any specific trend or era. With five members who all sing, it's also full of rich vocal harmonies and a lot of lead vocal trading too, which adds a nice change of pace and keeps things from ever getting stale. It doesn't officially come out until tomorrow, but you can hear the whole thing now. A full stream premieres below.

The band also gave us a track-by-track breakdown of the whole thing, and you can read that as you listen...

1. BESIDE MYSELF

I came up with a verse and chorus to this song a cappella, while working a part time job during the COVID shutdown. I love so much of how this arrangement turned out. There are good dynamics, tight harmonies, stops, off-beat hits, and an overall heavy feel. The music makes an impact. I feel that the “vibe” is correct, seeing as our lives were heavily impacted by the pandemic. -Nick Piccininni

2. I JUST CAN’T

This song came together like a few songs Dave and I have written together. I showed him chords and rough melody and he happened to have lyrics that more or less fit with the music. Dave wrote the majority of the verses and we hashed out the chorus. On the bus, we used to hear the phrase, “I just can’t,” quite often and we got a kick out of using it in the song. -Adam Aijala

3. SMALL HOUSE

This one started out as song about throwing stones, and it got highly revised over the course of a year. I finally settled on a set of lyrics while, you guessed it, on a walk with Adam in Bozeman MT. I forget what we were talking about but by the time I got back to the bus I had to borrow the Simon and Patrick and spend some time in the back lounge. Nick!s performance is really good and lends an extra dimension to the whole thing. It!s sort of a brooding song, so if I sang it, it would be too depressing. Haha. -Dave Johnston

4. IF ONLY

I tested positive for COVID in late 2020 and while isolating in our spare bedroom I came up with a guitar idea that ended up being the intro to the song. The scratch lyrics and melody I came up with felt like it could be a love song of sorts and how we navigate relationships. I brought it to Ben, Dave and Nick over Zoom and we reworked the chorus lyrics and added an instrumental bridge. The upbeat vibe of the song makes me think the outcome for the narrator was a good one. -Adam Aijala

5. UP THIS HILL

I wrote the words first on this one. I took a walk in Portland Maine one afternoon—we either had the day off or it was before soundcheck. It was rainy and cold and grey and I kept walking in circles. Even though its fairly straightforward its has some unconventional stuff going on with it. Nick's harmony part is enjoyable to sing with and so far people seem to like it when we play it live. -Dave Johnston

6. NO LEG LEFT

Dave and I were driving to a show in his minivan when I started the first verse of "No Leg Left." He was gracious enough to let me play mandolin in the front seat! The scenery on our ride through Colorado definitely gave a lot of inspiration for the melody, and the sort of old-time fiddle tune feeling I get from the arrangement. Adam’s guitar solo on this one is possibly my favorite solo on the entire record. I really enjoyed hearing how the harmonies came together, and I think it will carry a lot of weight when we take this one to the stage. -Nick Piccininni

7. OUT OF THE PAN

This instrumental is a demonstration of what comes easiest to me creatively; melody. Adam was there at the beginning to help me work out the chord structure. When it came time to work on the preproduction, I asked Ben if he would try playing electric bass as opposed to upright/acoustic. I had no idea that he would then channel his inner Victor Wooten on it! Ben’s playing of the melody easily became my favorite thing about this tune, and it’s clear that our audiences love it. -Nick Piccininni

8. INTO THE FIRE

It started as do most of my ideas; a melody with only one specific lyric in mind. This song actually marked my very first collaborative effort as Adam, Ben, and Dave all weighed in on the lyrics as they took shape. I think if I have a favorite line it would be, “I’m a boy with a song, it’s barely a sound”. I love this song’s energy on stage. The audience’s response makes me think that it comes across the way I had hoped! -Nick Piccininni

9. BROKEN RECORDS

It was the middle of the pandemic. For all intents and purposes I’d been unemployed for a year and was also going through a divorce. All of my writing at the time just seemed so depressing. Not that I’m surprised. Life felt genuinely hard and profoundly uncertain. I had the music for what would become "Broken Records" and while I wanted the lyrics to address some of the things I was going through, I was determined that it not become a “depressing song”. I remember getting angry with myself, having this internal conversation about how all I was doing was talking about things I didn’t like, or didn’t want. And I pretty much forced myself to flip that script. "Broken Records" is a prayer for myself. Hard times will pass. There are better days ahead. And music, as always, will be my guide and guardian. -Ben Kaufmann

10. CHANGE OF HEART

I was noodling around with a simple country melody, I think it was “You Are My Sunshine”, trying different chords and ways of re-phrasing it, and i finally got to something i kept repeating. I opened one of my morning notebooks, and the phrase, "I'll tell you one thing I remember” seemed to hand ok on the chords i had. From there I just tried to repeat that idea and that type of phrase. What I like the most about it is the way the chorus works, and the way the song filled out in the studio after everyone came up with their parts. -Dave Johnston

11. SUBURBAN GIRL

I've always thought that the folk/Americana/bluegrass scene would be like an autobiographical song about skateboarding, the Midwest, and unrequited, angst-y teenage emotions and this is what came out. The band did a great job with the sparse vibe on the final recording and Adam's vox kinda does that brother harmony thing that really fills out the choruses nicely. -Dave Johnston

Yonder Mountain String Band -- 2022 Tour Dates
2/26 - Steamboat, CO - Winter Wondergrass
2/27 - Steamboat, CO - Winter Wondergrass
3/11 - St. Petersburg, FL - Jannus Live
3/12 - Immokalee, FL - Southland Bluegrass and Wilderness Festival
3/13 - Key West, FL - Parade Grounds at Fort East Martello
3/15 - Carrboro, NC - Cat’s Cradle
3/16 - Savannah, GA - Victory North
3/17 - Live Oak, FL - Suwannee Spring Reunion
3/18 - Atlanta, GA - Variety Playhouse
3/19 - Charleston, SC - Charleston Bluegrass Festival
3/20 - Nashville, TN - Brooklyn Bowl
3/23 - Fayetteville, AR - George’s Majestic Lounge
3/24 - Austin, TX - Scoot Inn
3/25 - Houston, TX - Warehouse Live
3/26 - Dallas, TX - The Studio at the Factory
4/27 - New Orleans, LA - Hogs For The Cause
4/28 - ​​Poughkeepsie, NY - Bardavon
4/29 - Baltimore, MD - venue TBA
5/6 - Black Mountain, NC - Silverados
5/7 - Cincinnati, OH - venue TBA
5/8 - Cincinnati, OH - venue TBA

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