Yonder Mountain blazes own trail in bluegrass

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Yonder Mountain String Band will play Lifestyle Communities Pavilion on Saturday, July 5, in a co-headline show with Railroad Earth. Tickets are $25/$30. Visit promowestlive.com.

Whether the Yonder Mountain String Band is actually a bluegrass band is undetermined -- even by founding member Adam Aijala.

For sure, Aijala's band is at the forefront of the neo-grass movement that began 15 to 20 years ago in Colorado. Originally a quartet (mandolinist Jeff Austin parted ways with the band to pursue a solo career earlier this year), YMSB's members (also Dave Johnston, banjo, and Ben Kaufmann, bass) came together in what the guitarist/singer called a "serendipitous meeting."

"We were all living in Colorado, no one was on what you'd call a career path, no wives or kids," he said.

"The (bluegrass) scene was very hot, and we would run into each other at open jams and other bands' shows. When we decided to be a band, we had it in our heads to do bluegrass."

Of course, their individual musical backgrounds and influences ranged from classic rock to jazz to skater punk -- pretty much everything but bluegrass.

"We discovered shortly into our path that the music we were making wasn't really sounding like very traditional bluegrass," Aijala said. "Even now I find myself trying very hard to write a bluegrass song. I'll bring something to the guys and say, 'Here's a song I wrote. It's not really bluegrass, but let's do it anyway.' "

Of course, this new amalgamation proved interesting to musicians and audiences alike, and so adventurous rock 'n' roll bluegrass became the members' collective career path.

Ten records and countless shows later, that path has proven fruitful. Indeed, only the "all living in Colorado" part remains unchanged, as the members now have families as well as a career path.

"I still write about relationships and emotions and stuff," Aijala said. "That seems to be what it always comes back to, even though we're all married now."

YMSB maintains a busy touring schedule, logging in the neighborhood of 100 dates a year. After this summer tour, the band will head into the studio to begin work on a new album, tentatively scheduled to be released early in 2015.

Presumably it will be a bluegrass record -- after a fashion.