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Yonder Mountain String Band

EP 13 – 2013 (Frog Pad)

Reviewed by Lee Zimmerman

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CDs by Yonder Mountain String Band

The first in an ongoing series of EPs that will occupy the band as inspiration strikes them, "YMSB EP '13" represents true musical democracy, in that it offers one song apiece by each Yonder Mountain String Band member.

Recorded on the road, it's purpose was clarified in a press release that accompanied its release. "We seek out studios to work in while touring," singer/ bassist Ben Kaufmann explained. "And while the juices are flowing and chops are at maximum potential, we take a couple of days to record. There are four singers and four songwriters in the band; what a perfect way for us to release studio material. The music world is so different these days, it's all about bite-sized chunks, so we felt a series of EPs was the best way to capture magic in the studio, and something that our fans could truly relate to. We asked ourselves, 'what's really feasible when you have a band with so many songwriters?' When you have an EP, you can have all these connections and interrelations in four songs, it just works for YMSB."

Fair enough, but even with such limited exposure, guitarist Adam Aijala, bassist Ben Kaufmann, banjo player Dave Johnston and mandolin strummer Jeff Austin each become obligated to offer their best shot. Kaufmann's Straight Line offers an amiable and easy ambling first impression, giving way to Johnston's thoughtful, reflective Don't Worry Happy Birthday and Austin's measured Rag Doll. It's then left to Aijala's All the Time, the most spirited entry herein, to round out this short set on an appropriately festive note.

Ultimately, "YSMB EP '13" serves best as a sampler, sort of a mini version of The Beatles' so-called "White Album" that allows each player to prove his prowess. The strength of the sum of its parts becomes that much clearer as a result.