Jam bands don't make good studio albums. That's been the prevailing opinion among reviewers, critics and observers of popular music since bands like the Grateful Dead expanded the boundaries of traditional rock and roll music by adding extended improvisational sections. While the songs may be good, it is often argued that the studio albums fail to capture the energy and spirit of the concerts these jam bands are known for.
Colorado's Yonder Mountain String Band, with its unique blend of bluegrass and rock and its proclivity for jam-heavy live performances, has been proving that opinion wrong for the last decade with a string of studio releases that have managed to appeal both to fans of traditional bluegrass music and to people that enjoy the "jammier" rock aspects of the band's music.
The group's latest, produced by Tom Rothrock (Beck, Foo Fighters, R.L. Burnside), is another solid studio effort that finds the quartet continuing to broaden its sound. The basic instrumentation on the 13-song set reflects the band's traditional bluegrass/string band background, but the songwriting and the arrangements skew more toward rock and roll.
Two of the finest tracks are also two of the most overtly "rock" songs on the collection. Both Belle Parker and Complicated prominently feature the contributions of Pete Thomas from Elvis Costello's band The Impostors on drums and have a real opportunity to attract a broader audience for this talented ensemble.