By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Steve Brennan
By Joseph Hess
By Allsion Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By RFT Music
By Christian Schaeffer
By Gabriel San Roman
The banjo is not just the tool of the old. Béla Fleck and the boys in Newgrass Revival helped show that tradition in bluegrass music was a fine thing, taken in moderation. Even better, they figured, was taking that tradition and throwing it into the toaster oven with whatever music happened to be stuck to the soles of their shoes that day: Open door, insert influences, set to "broil." Top brown indicates when done. Thus was invented a style, named after the band but hardly unique to it: newgrass.
The Yonder Mountain String Band almost plays this stuff. Actually, they go a step beyond. The musical goo that emerges from their side-loading Black & Decker of pickin' has been affectionately dubbed "jamgrass" -- one part Bill Monroe, one part Jerry Garcia, one part acoustic Zeppelin, all tossed into a Cuisinart with every button but "frappé" broken off.
Assaulting the world from an Old Home Place somewhere in Colorado, YMSB has, in a few short years, sold out the Fillmore, played with the living greats (David Grisman, Jerry Douglas, Peter Rowan, et al) and developed a taper following to rival those of most decade-old acts. All this, and none of the group's members is over the age of 30 (most, in fact, are well under). The members of YMSB call their music "drive without drums," and a better term probably doesn't exist. Their latest album, Town by Town,is perhaps their most cohesive effort yet. Produced by Tim O'Brien (of Hot Rize fame), its moving rhythm rolls and bounces along. Their live show is rumored to be addictive. Here's hoping.