- The Europe Bootlegs
Since its inception, the Yonder Mountain String Band, which releases its own records through its Frog Pad label, has alternated studio releases with successive volumes of live albums all called Mountain Tracks. This time, Mountain Tracks, Vol. 4 follows Mountain Tracks, Vol. 3 without an intervening studio album. And that's fine. The group has made its reputation through its concerts, where the musicians can stretch out and try different things. The 50-minute CD introduces several excellent new originals in guitarist Adam Aijala's "Another Day" and bassist Ben Kaufmann's "Looking Over My Shoulder" and "River." But the live context also gives the band leave to expand its repertoire in unexpected directions. This is a group that previously has been willing to try Rolling Stones and Willie Nelson songs, but here they go much further afield, opening with a 13-minute bluegrass rendition of Talking Heads' "Girlfriend Is Better" and also throwing in a version of the Minutemen's "Corona." Such selections are their way of letting audiences know that, despite the traditional guitar-banjo-mandolin-acoustic bass lineup, this is not your father's bluegrass group. The third volume in the Mountain Tracks series expanded to two discs; this one follows contemporary trends by including a DVD, The Europe Bootlegs. It is a one-hour documentary directed by Jack Chester that chronicles the Yonder Mountain String Band's two-week tour of Europe in July 2003, which found the group playing in Ireland, England, and France. The word "bootleg" is a hint that the production values are not high; Chester and other camera operators follow the bandmembers around to radio stations, hotel rooms, and backstage holding areas, getting what footage they can in less-than-ideal circumstances. There are several performances, and they also live up to the "bootleg" description. But fans will get a sense of the different personalities of the musicians and enjoy seeing them slog through the typical experiences of a band on the road.