By Troy Aldrich
Jeff Austin has been a touring musician for almost two decades, and he brought tasty mandolin licks together with a horn section in his 2015 album release, The Simple Truth. Iowa City’s music scene has long welcomed bluegrass artists, and Austin should expect the same when he rolls into town.
He founded the Yonder Mountain String Band in December 1998, alongside Dave Johnston, Ben Kaufmann, and Adam Aijala. The group produced 10 full-length albums during his time with them. Austin was featured on the mandolin and lead vocals with Yonder.
Amid the band’s success, Austin left the group in the spring of 2014 and began touring with the Jeff Austin Band almost immediately. He joined bluegrass buddies Erin Thorin (bass) and Danny Barnes (banjo). They had only a small catalogue of songs for rotation, but Austin soon began writing for the group.
Early on, Austin stressed the importance of playing originals. He removed himself from Yonder completely, even though many fans of his former group begged for their favorite Yonder hits. This was largely because of Austin’s new sound.
We hear a lot of new sounds on The Simple Truth. For starters, there is a horn section (trumpet, trombone, tenor saxophone) featured on “Shake Me Up.” Next to the customary acoustic mandolin solos, there is electric bass and guitar. These changes haven’t taken Austin away from his roots. There are still fiery mandolin solos, and old-fashioned folk lyrics on tracks such as “Fiddling Around” and “Run Down.”
Gabe’s venue should set Austin up for a great show. The intimate stage will allow him to rip the acoustic mandolin solos. He will also be able to feature folk ballads such as “Over and Over” and still fill the bar with sound.