The parting of ways with Jolliff marks the second major personnel change for Yonder Mountain String Band since 2014. That year, mandolin player Jeff Austin left after a decade and a half of being a central figure in the group that he co-founded with guitarist/singer Adam Aijala, banjo player Dave Johnston, and bassist Ben Kaufmann in 1998 in Nederland, Colorado. The remaining trio moved forward, bringing on Kral and Jolliff and making the 2015 album, “Black Sheep.”
A second album with that lineup, “Love. Ain’t Love,” followed in 2017. But as the group continued on, it became apparent that Jolliff, a virtuoso on mandolin, wasn’t the right fit.
“I think the main thing with Jake is he’s on a music trajectory that’s a lot different from where Yonder’s at,” said Aijala, who joined Piccininni for the interview. “He really is that good. I would imagine if you have that level of ability that playing with a band like us would probably be either boring or uninspiring (although) he never said those words to me.
“He’s an awesome dude,” Aijala said of Jolliff. “There was no ill will at all in that departure. I think it was a natural progression, an evolution, for both Yonder and for him.”
In Piccininni, Yonder Mountain not only found a capable mandolin player, but a musician who also plays guitar, dobro and fiddle and is a strong vocalist. And Piccininni has already made his presence felt on “Get Yourself Outside,” the new Yonder Mountain album that arrived on Feb. 25.
Even though he was the “new guy,” Piccininni was very involved in the songwriting for “Get Yourself Outside.” That was the intention from the start of the writing process.
“I feel like we encouraged him to have as much (input) as he can,” Aijala said. “I think he’s a great singer and the songs are good. So why wouldn’t you encourage that?”
For Piccininni, the biggest adjustment may have been learning to write as a collective.
“It’s kind of weird to say this, but I’d never co-written any songs before then. So that was a new experience,” he said. “That comes with its own set of (challenges), kind of feeling a little timid, because you’re kind of baring your soul there. … But I think that they made me feel comfortable about it.”
Yonder Mountain plans to play lots of shows in 2022, and currently shows are booked through March, with dates for later in the year starting to get announced.
Aijala said Yonder Mountain’s shows have undergone a slight change recently. The band has been famous for playing completely different song sets each night for a week or more on tours. But that is changing somewhat, partly because Aijala and his bandmates reassessed some songs that had been vehicles for jamming. Those songs now appear in sets in much shorter form, which means the band is playing certain songs more frequently.
“We had a big reflection during the pandemic, and talking with Ben and Dave, talking about, just passing around solos doesn’t really make the song a jammer anymore, nor does it make it better,” Aijala said. “We used to do that with ‘Casualty,’ and we do it once in awhile where we’re passing around the solos. (There are) songs that I can think of that we need to maybe stop doing that, and there are other ones where we don’t do that at all anymore and they’re three- or four-minute songs now. I think that is also contributing to maybe having to play one song twice in a week or a couple of songs.”
Yonder Mountain String Band
8 p.m. March 18. $27.50-$59. Variety Playhouse, 1099 Euclid Ave. NE, Atlanta. 404-876-5566, variety-playhouse.com.