Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Kentucky Songs: Kentucky Mandolin

Day four of our tribute to the Commonwealth of Kentucky – the U.S. has six entities branded as commonwealths – how many of the other five can you name? The answer will appear at the bottom of this post. For today’s special a little wooden newgrass from the Yonder Mountain String Band with their rendition of Bill Monroe’s “Kentucky Mandolin.”

While the song retains the feel of the original Monroe tune, it is an exercise in wonderful improvisation and instrumental expertise. Based out of Colorado, which has become a haven for acoustic artists, the Yonder Mountain String Band prominently features Jeff Austin on mandolin on this cut. Others in the band include Dave Johnston on banjo, Adam Aijala on flat-picking style guitar, and Ben Kaufmann on a solid body electric upright bass.

If these guys weren’t inspired by the classic line-up of Newgrass Revival, I can’t tell you who their influences are. I am also, however, tempted to throw in a hint of Dave Grissman into the mix as well. While their style would be categorized as heresy by the bluegrass purists, I think their sound is wonderful and I could listen to them all night long.

Besides the Commonwealth of Kentucky, the five other US commonwealths are Pennsylvania, Virginia, Massachusetts, Puerto Rico, and the Northern Mariana Islands. During the final years when the Philippines was a US territory, it also was a commonwealth from 1934-1946. Now, aren’t you glad you know that?

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