Yonder Mountain String Band with Jennifer Hartswick and Natalie Cressman 1.2.15

Boulder Theater
Boulder, CO

Words & Photos By Nicholas Stock (Fat Guerilla Productions)

After three nights with The String Cheese Incident we chose to end our New Year’s celebration with Yonder Mountain String Band featuring Natalie Cressman and Jennifer Hartswick. Yonder began their carousing on New Year’s Eve by themselves and for the next three days they would invite a wide variety of friends to join them onstage. For the second night, Yonder invited John Popper, Shawn Camp, Joey Porter and Dave Watts to join in. On night three after Ben wished Dave Johnston a very happy birthday, he alluded to the fact that it was ‘Ladies’ Night.’ This should hit close to home given the recent shakeup in the world of Yonder Mountain. With the departure of Jeff Austin, the band scrambled to find a suitable replacement. The two-part solution was Allie Kral and Jake Jolliff. Now there have been mixed reactions from fans, but the fact remains that YMSB 2.0 might just be a better band. Gone is the abrasiveness of Austin’s singing, which has been replaced by Allie’s delicate voice and fireball fiddle. Jake is much more reserved, however, he can rip the mandolin and his vocals are smooth. All that being said, Jeff is still out there doing his thing. Yes, it is a change, but all things considered, it may have had some unforeseen positive results for both bands. According to the bartender the attendance was a bit light compared to the two previous nights. We walked through the doors just as YMSB started a “Pass This Way” sandwich.

Set One: Pass This Way> EMD> Pass This Way, Straight Line, Son of a Gun, Landfall, If It Hadn’t Been For Love*, Kentucky Mandolin*, Don’t Worry Happy Birthday*, Corona*, Son of a Preacher Man*

Set Two: Travelin’ Prayer, Not Far Away, Amie, Blue Collar Blues> Wheel Hoss> Blue Collar Blues, Anna Lee*, Remind Me*, Lonely Town Lonely Street*, Piece Of My Heart*, Only A Northern Song*> Sidewalk Stars*> Only A Northern Song*

Encore: You Never Can Tell, I Second That Emotion*

*w/ Natalie Cressman and Jennifer Hartswick

Musically the band just feels more at ease and relaxed. Adam’s guitar was hot on “EMD.” Ben took a turn singing on a beautifully executed “Straight Line.” Ben also let it be known during the show that the new lineup was a mere six hours shy of finishing the recording of their new album. It seems pretty safe to say that Jake and Allie are in it for the long haul. “Son of a Gun” took on a dizzying pace, while “Landfall” was full of some incredible harmonizing. Yonder Mountain invited out Hartswick and Cressman in all their brass-tastic glory. They went into a bluesy rendition of Adele’s “If It Hadn’t Been For Love” with Jennifer on vocals. The rendition of Bill Monroe’s instrumental “Kentucky Mandolin” gave the ladies in the back a chance to insert their horns into the mix. In honor of Dave’s special day he sang “Don’t Worry Happy Birthday.” They closed with Natalie Cressman singing a spellbinding version of Dusty Springfield’s “Son Of A Preacher Man.” Allie joined in on the last verse as well. Her vocals continue to improve, and she is rapidly becoming the headliner we all knew she was when she was with Cornmeal.

Allie Kral got the second set started with Billy Joel’s “Travelin’ Prayer.” While Joel wrote the song, both Earl Scruggs and Dolly Parton covered the song. Dolly earned a Grammy for her recording of it in 1999. “Not Far Away” included some impeccable picking from Jake, while the version of the Pure Prairie League’s “Amie” made the fans dance. “Blue Collar Blues” stayed traditional before it exploded into a perfectly timed “Wheel Hoss.” The return to “BCB” went into an almost psychedelic breakdown that had fans speaking in tongues. Again, Hartswick and Cressman came to the stage for the Kaufman sung “Anna Lee.” “Remind Me” included some of the most extensive jamming of the night. Cressman again came to the microphone, this time with a version of Bill Withers’ “Lonely Town Lonely Street.” Hartswick matched her vocal prowess with Janis Joplin’s “Piece Of My Heart.” Again, Yonder Mountain pushed the musical boundaries between bluegrass and psychedelic rock with “Only A Northern Song” into “Sidewalk Stars” and back again. The ladies harmonized nicely on both vocals and instruments during Chuck Berry’s “You Never Can Tell,” also known as “C’est La Vie.” They closed the night with a return to Motown with a version of The Miracles’ “I Second That Emotion.” Yonder Mountain String Band is a group reborn. Their transformation may have not been under the most favorable circumstances. However, the result is one I think we can all live with. Not to mention, they seem much more open to collaboration and mixing up the dynamic musically. Case in point the entire New Year’s run seemed to be a celebration of not only the music we all love, but change as well. Nothing is forever and I think with this last trip around the sun we can all finally move forward with this new order of things. I for one wish both Jeff and YMSB the very best in 2015. Happy New Year.

Nick’s Photo Gallery



  1. Nice pics Nick! Thanks for posting my video! For more videos from the Yonder NYE run checkout this link http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLox2y0_0XUbEB0UVONjF1ZzBCYDqFlvjL


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