Yonder Mountain String Band w/ Great Peacock
General Admission - $37 (plus fees)
Gold Section - $47 (plus fees)
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 songcraft, 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.
"I think this is our best album yet," says Adam Aijala, guitarist.
Yonder founding members Aijala, 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."
LOVE. AIN'T LOVE is produced by Yonder Mountain String Band and longtime collaborator John McVey, with the majority of the album recorded at Coupe Studios in Yonder's home base of Boulder, CO. Aijala and McVey handled all of the album's mix and engineering at their respective home studios and while Yonder was on the road -- the second time a Yonder member has taken on the technical task.
"John taught me a lot when we worked together on our last album," Aijala says. "So this time around, I felt a lot more confident."
Like virtually all aspects of Yonder Mountain String Band's unlikely artistic methodology, LOVE. AIN'T LOVE is a fully collaborative effort, its original songs credited to the core founding trio of Aijala, Johnston, and Kaufmann, regardless of combination or specific input.
"I think it removes the jockeying for songs on a record," says Aijala. "We're all of the mind that even if one of us wrote a great song, if not for Yonder, would anyone get a chance to hear it? It works better this way. All three of us grew up playing team sports so we're team players -- everyone wants what's best for the band."
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."
Indeed, "Last of the Railroad Men" plays like a lost narrative country classic while the unprecedented "Groovin' Away" closes LOVE. AIN'T LOVE with a summery sense of joyous optimism. Yonder's first-ever original reggae song, the track stands out as yet another shining example of the band's lifelong commitment to anything-goes artistic freedom.
"There are no limits to what we do" says Aijala. "We'll try anything, if it feels good, we'll try it again."
In addition to the founding trio's songwriting efforts, Jolliff -- who arrived to play on BLACK SHEEP sessions and never left -- contributed a pair of fiery instrumentals and also lends vocals to a delightful cover of King Harvest's eternal "Dancing In The Moonlight."
"Allie sang a song that we wrote on BLACK SHEEP," Aijala says, "so we wanted to showcase Jake's vocals on this album. We've been playing 'Dancing in the Moonlight' in our live shows and whenever we play it people just light up. We always enjoy playing it, the harmonies are really good and Jake sings the hell out of it so we thought, why not put it on the record?"
2017 will see Yonder continue its seemingly endless touring, leading towards next year's 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 Ben Kaufmann.
With its melodic flair, expert technique, and forward-thinking fervor, LOVE. AIN'T LOVE is a strikingly assured and well-crafted manifestation of Yonder's matchless musical vision. 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.
"We've talked about this," Aijala says, "and we all feel like we could play in Yonder until we can't play anymore. As long we still have new ideas, as long as we're still creating something that's fresh to us, I don't see any reason to stop."
pitting stories of love, loss and pain, Nashville’s Great Peacockâ¯â¯ comprised of lead singer and guitarist Andrew Nelson, guitarist Blount Floyd, drummer Nick Recio and bass player Frank Keith IV â¯â¯ challenge the very notion of genre, dismantling tradition and blurring the lines between rock ‘n roll, conventional folk music and true Americana. Having earned praise from Paste, the Nashville Scene, American Songwriter, No Depression, Relix and PopMatters, the band ignites a kind of unapologetic spark. As fixtures on the Southern festival circuit including Shakey Knees, they’ve shared stages with an abundance of equally-minded noise-makers, including Susto, Hurray for the Riff Raff, Dr. Dog, American Aquarium, Margo Price and Jonathan Tyler.
“I’m a rolling stone / Yeah, I can’t sit still,” Nelson wails on “One Way Ticket,” a prime cut from their upcoming second album, Gran Pavo Real (out Mar. 30 via Ropeadope Records), which is Spanish for Great Peacock. Their craft is instinctual, enlivened by their electric and nimble playing, gripping lyrical insight and Nelson’s eviscerating vocals. Their grooves run thick, like on standouts like “Rattlesnake” (a swampy, mid-tempo song that relates addiction to a slithering serpent) and “Heartbreak Comin’ Down.” They also manage to cut right to the bone, particularly when they deal in restraint. “Take a little time to make things right / Make a little love in the middle of the night,” Nelson ruminates on the languid and smokey “Oh Deep Water.”
The tension and sweltering unease comes in waves across 10 tracks, often brittle and heartbreaking, other times ferocious and sharp. “A peacock has so many colors, and that’s what we want our sound to be like. It’s clearly rock ‘n roll. It’s clearly country. It’s clearly folk. There’s definitely blues and elements of R&B in there, too,” says Nelson.
Recorded at Nashville’s Sound Emporium, the album was helmed by industry stalwart Dexter Green (Jason Isbell, Elizabeth Cooke, Derek Hoke). “He brought a strange cosmic energy," says Nelson about Green. "He’s sort of indescribable. You have to meet him to know who he is.”
The scope of Gran Pavo Real is most remarkable, shifting between the slow-rolling “Hideaway” to the downcast “Let’s Get Drunk Tonight” and the yearning of “All I Really Want is You.” Spending very little time with overdubs or more than a few takes, the music came together within two days. My Morning Jacket’s Tom Blankenship lends his smart musicianship to the entire lineup. Initially, his contribution was on only one song, but he fell in love with the work being made and asked to stay for the whole ride. Accomplished key player Ralph Lofton (Yolanda Adams, Jennifer Holliday) is likewise a prevalent musical force throughout the collection. “Ralph brought some soul to the project," notes Nelson. "It’s really great, considering we recorded it live. This record has a real human interaction type soul.”
Having grown up in a rather sheltered Pentecostal household in the suburbs of Birmingham, Alabama, Nelson tuned into the only secular music he was allowed to listen to: the local oldies station. “What really got me into music is the blues. When I was a teenager I really liked John Lee Hooker, Freddy King, BB King, and Buddy Guy. I think you can hear these influences in the new songs in some ways. At an early age, I learned how hitting the right chords at the right times could really mess with somebody’s emotions.”
It wasn’t until he was 14 years old that he heard Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird" for the first time, and it changed everything. “When I heard the guitar solo, I freaked out. I went downstairs and started playing my brother’s guitars when he wasn’t home. I taught myself how to play because I loved that song so much. I would get my ass kicked for breaking his strings, though. I had to learn fast, and I knew I wouldn’t get a guitar from my parents if I didn’t already show some interest or effort.”
Later, when he was 18, the next piece of the puzzle fell into place. His father had just passed away, and on the ride home from the funeral, his sister, “who always had really good taste in music,” as Nelson remembers it, put on Ryan Adams’ “When the Stars Go Blue.” The performance crushed him. “I started hearing all the little country influences. I thought it was awesome. I didn’t know I liked country music. Then, I went from Ryan straight to George Jones. From that moment on, I became way more obsessed with country music than rock ‘n roll.”
After college, he moved to Nashville to pursue his musical career and that's where he met bandmate Blount, who “grew up on ‘90s country.” The pair hit it off almost immediately. “We instantly went out and got a case of beer and shotgunned them. We started playing and writing songs together. We found out we sang together pretty well.”
Late one night, when they were drunk on Bushwackers, Great Peacock was born. “We jokingly said we were going to start a folk band, and we wrote a song called ‘Desert Lark,’” recalls Nelson. Close friends and family raved about what they had nonchalantly created. The band soon became a reality in early 2013, and their debut album Making Ghosts arrived two years later.
On Gran Pavo Real, the band spread their wings and easily glide into bolder territory â¯â¯ without sacrificing their genre-bending artist stamp, of course. Americana music is a state of mind, a way of living fraught with stories of heartache, lonesomeness, and desperation. That is certainly the case for Great Peacock, whose style is an amalgam of American design bred of southern tradition.