A progressive bluegrass quintet from Colorado, Get Yourself Outside is Yonder Mountain String Band’s ninth album and their first with new member Nick Piccininni on mandolin. While written and recorded during lockdowns, it’s pretty much business as usual, opening with the breezy (and clearly pandemic-related) Beside Myself (“Has the world stopped turning ‘round?/Friend, it feels upside down/Right became wrong and all the new songs/Went up on a shelf”), continuing in similar musical vein with I Just Can’t before slowing it down slightly on Small House, clearly another number informed by the frustration of quarantine (“Living in a small house/I’m alive I’m alone/At my microphone/Can’t get outta here/Can’t get myself gone”), though with the line “One of many dragged around by the few” you can also read in a political metaphor. It’s mostly a lively chugging set of numbers, banjo, mandolin and fiddle sparking away to deliver an upbeat musical mood designed to prompt much foot-stomping, leg slapping and yeehaws on such numbers as If Only about not hiding your feelings behind being cool (“If only we could turn off the show/And see each other clearly/Imagine how far we could go”), a similarly themed Up This Hill (“If I could change my mind/I wonder what I’d find/I’d wander off lose these crutches”) with its talk of how life’s always a case of “Up this hill and down again/It becomes a mountain/Way up high another side/Brand new beginning”. Likewise, preceded by the instrumental Out Of The Pan, Into The Fire’s relationships lament (“Looking for light in a love gone cold/Why am I lonely, left high and dry/I’d give you the world and you ask for my pride”).
However, it’s the slower numbers where the album proves the most interesting as they stretch their musical muscles, the introspective folksy blues No Leg Left about a relationship coming to its end (“You tell me I need to figure my own mind/And I figure I will in time/Just in time to be too late/You’ve had all you can take/And I’ve got no leg left to stand on”) and the jazz and soul shaded, fiddle and strummed guitar-fuelled semi-spoken Broken Records (“Life is more than just existing/What really makes it a ride… is when I find myself”).
Picking the pace back up, on the penultimate track, Change Of Heart, the fiddle player gets to take on vocal duties for a song of unrequited love as the narrator sees the object of their affections being abused by their partner (“In your backyard with your little light on I can see your man running through your house/You knock and knock till the light is gone/And I pass out high on desire and doubt/I would never lock you out”) and wishing they’d turn to them instead.
The album ends on a final unrequited love ballad; the rippling fingerpicked folksy Suburban Girl, an autobiographical song in the manner of John Prine by banjo player Dave Johnston recalling being an angsty skateboarding teenager standing, Romeo-like, below the window of the girl he fancied and, giving the album its title, telling her to make up her mind and “get yourself outside”.
Formed in 1998 and now approaching their 25th anniversary, Yonder Mountain String Band have carved themselves a hugely impressive reputation and loyal following on the bluegrass scene in the past decades; given the evidence on this album, there’s no reason to think the years ahead won’t be even more rewarding.