That lyrical snippet neatly sums up the philosophy of Yonder Mountain, a Colorado-based quartet whose progressive approach to bluegrass pays tribute to the spirit (rather than the letter) of the form.
Yonder Mountain has found an ardent audience in the jam-band demographic -- often to the chagrin of genre purists. None of that bothers vocalist and mandolin player Jeff Austin one bit.
"Music is music," he says from his home in Nederland. "If you don't try to find a way that [musical styles] can blend together, you're really cutting yourself short from some great possibilities. To [limit] any music, I think, kind of cheapens what it is."
To that end, he says, the band was very enthusiastic about Sparxxx's use of its song. "The theme of his new record is taking roots music and showing how it can blend to hip-hop style," Austin says. "It's one of the coolest things that's happened to the band, because our goal from the beginning was, 'Let's take this style of music and see where it can go, what different kinds of music it can penetrate.'"
When the band first heard a rough demo of the track, "On one hand, we're thinking, 'Man, that is so strange!' [But] we're also thinking, 'Man, what a cool ear [he has], to hear [our song] in that context.' To listen to a hip-hop station now and hear our band come on, that's pretty neat. I give him huge credit for doing that."
The "collaboration" only gives Yonder Mountain's detractors more ammunition to dismiss the group as not being a genuine bluegrass outfit, but Austin sees that as a positive. "That's fine with me!" he says. "Until the day Pete Wernick, one of the greatest banjo players that ever lived, called us a bluegrass band, I never thought we were a bluegrass band. We're a string band -- that's why it's in the name. [The Sparxxx song] adds fuel to the fire, but I say, 'Good!' People need a little fire nowadays. There's a lot of really good bluegrass bands out there that are way better than us. We'll let them do that."
But "Comin' Round" is only half of a one-two punch delivered to those who would insist on straitjacketing the popular "blue-jam" group. The second half is last year's studio album, Old Hands, on which Yonder Mountain veers abruptly into more traditional territory, playing with, and recording the songs of the talented but obscure Colorado songwriter Benny Galloway. Although the band's technical proficiency is evident throughout, Old Hands is far removed from the group's usual fare.
"The record let us show that we're not afraid to record five or six slow songs," Austin says. "It doesn't have to be rip-roaring, balls-to-the-wall music. Sally Van Meter, who produced it, told us, 'This is an important album for you guys to make.' It was kind of like, it'll shut up a lot of people who dog us: 'They're just a bunch of young punk kids who play fast.' As musicians, we had to make this record."
Austin says Yonder Mountain had more than silencing its critics in mind. "My biggest hope is that people will hear Benny's music and identify with it, and he'll get known for it." But at the end of the day, he says, the band's philosophy remained pretty much the same as it has since the group's formation. "It was kind of a selfish record to make -- we didn't care what anybody thought about it."
ooooohhhh, I'm so excited!! I can't wait to see them together!
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Yes, 14 is the correct answer. I'll pass your info along to the group's manager,…