“Our waiting days are finally over,” the title track from Pert Near Sandstone’s new album decries, echoing the sentiment of a community recently pent up and beyond longing. What can develop from the turbulence of a still dwindling global pandemic and also respond to the noise of prattling politics? Art has its purpose in this exact hour.
It’s a strikingly different world than when Pert Near Sandstone first began nearly two decades ago near the sandstone river bluffs of St. Paul. The former latchkey kids who grew up together a few Mississippi-miles upstream have been out on a spree, through the thicket, and have been performing and recording this past year in earnest, which has culminated in their eighth studio album. Waiting Days is set for independent release on October 20.
“Out of Time,” the album's heaviest hitting song, is a gazette of concerns that we face in troubled times. The explicit itemization is an alarm for movement; the singer’s vocals singe of desperation is motivation to confront the things most feared and to hold on to what is most dear. Lest we get lost in despair, we can find rejuvenation in one of the strongest songs, “All Waves Break,” which gestures with surrealism to offset the bleakness of a just-as-wacky reality.
They are releasing the first glimpse of the new tunes with “All Waves Break” as the album’s first single. Watch the lyric video for the song here → https://youtu.be/M_eB5cJyZ64
Waiting Days has all the merit of maturity and the strengths of its four songwriters (all of whom are vocalists)—Justin Bruhn (bass), Kevin Kniebel (banjo), J Lenz (guitar), and Nate Sipe (mandolin, steel guitars, fiddle)—offering responses to each other’s compositions through a long camaraderie. Sipe says, “After almost twenty years together, our bond has grown to reflect more of a family, a band of brothers.”
As longtime stewards of the modern stringband revival, Pert Near has a songcraft informed by the American folk tradition in a delivery of acoustic instrumentation. The songs themselves tell a different tale, straying from the reliquary of common stringband selections, lightly veiled as bluegrass while sneakily appeasing their inner desire for a more modern musical timbre. Pert Near delivers another full album of original songs that meditates on this exact present, rich with context and reference.
There are songs that reach into a field that isn't always aglow with sunlight while finding beauty in the tenderness of relationships. There are traveling songs sung by a band that has hit the pavement hard over their time, simultaneously creating a soundtrack for those all night drives that music festival devotees well know. This isn’t music reaching for the banality of pop hits—this is fresh air for blades of new grass to grow in. At times there is an almost symphonic string section that lifts the melody, while other times the simplicity of banjo and pedal steel indeed helps us believe the genuine intentions of Pert Near Sandstone’s creative resolve.
Chris Forsberg, a recent inclusion to the outfit, puts his fiddle stamp on the overall sound with turnbuckle solos and harmonious response to the melodies. The interplay of mandolin and fiddle carries much of the music across the songs, but it’s the mixture of guest instrumentalists that gives this album a unique tapestry of sounds and texture, opening a deeper space that has become standard in production for Pert Near Sandstone projects.
Trampled By Turtles’ fiddler and original Pert Near member, Ryan Young, recorded and mixed the album—the fourth he has gifted his audio wizardry to— and added his fiddle and other accouterments to bolster the energy of the songs. The intimacy of collaboration is at the heart of this new project, after all, which spanned several of the harshest weeks of a midwestern winter in Ryan’s NeonBrown Recording Studio in Crystal, Minnesota.
Ryan says, “I’ve been recording Pert Near Sandstone since 2004 when I’d set up some mics to record our practices. I feel like we know each other really well and I know what kind of sounds they are going for. Some songs call for a stripped down feel of friends playing folk music together in a living room, and others are more elaborate with influences from metal to electronic music to rock and more.”
The railroad laden album cover looks as though it could be an illustration for the song, “End of The Line,” wherein a conversation between a hobo and railroad brakeman confront the possible obsolescence of their livelihoods. We can now hear that distant whistle as a token of hope. An electric steel guitar slides into the conversation and nods to early country music, played by the band's train hopper and mandolinist. Several other songs also feature Sipe’s work on pedal steel guitar.
In an ever-changing terrain, digitally enhanced and quickly refreshed, only an album like this could be harvested. By contrast to tik tocs, reels, and tweets, this album was formed from the wilderness and carved from the heartwood. The band would say their music and sound come about organically, but under the tall oak trees of the Twin Cities, those wooden instruments may have been antennas drawn to the marrow, like a divination wand used to scratch an itch or soothe a wound, they tapped into this latest collection of songs.
Anyone that knows this band is aware of their humor and levity, and that charm is never far from the surface. It is a central component of their expression and shared experience. The connectedness to community is at the core of Pert Near’s music and philosophy. Nobody on earth is having a singular experience, as these songs shine a light upon. We are all here together. As the title track declares, “... I want to take you with me when I go.” Let’s get ready. Now is our time. The waiting days are over.
Pre-save Waiting Days on Spotify: https://show.co/kHU93US.
Pert Near Sandstone on Tour
08.17 | Sioux Falls, SD - Icon Lounge
08.18 | Custer, SD - Beacon
08.19 | Livingston, MT - Pine Creek Lodge
09.16 | St. Paul, MN - Dual Citizen Brewing
09.21 | Appleton, WI - Poplar Hall
09.22 | Winona, MN - Boats and Bluegrass Festival
10.04 | Kansas City, MO - Knuckleheads
10.05 | Columbia, MO - Blue Rose Music Hall
10.07 | Pelham, TN - Cave Fest
10.19 | Bend, OR - Volcanic Theatre Pub
10.20 | Portland, OR - Good Foot
10.21 | Centralia, WA - Juice Box
10.22 | Seattle, WA - High Dive
11.03 | LaCrosse, WI - Midwest Music Fest
11.08 | Lincoln, NE - Zoo Bar *
11.09 | Ft Collins, CO - 830 N *
11.10 | Boulder, CO - Velvet Elk Lounge *
11.11 | Denver, CO - Ophelia's *
11.30 | Ames, IA - Alluvial Brewing
12.01 | Mankato, MN - Mankato Brewery ^
12.02 | Minneapolis, MN - First Avenue ^
* w / Henhouse Prowlers
^ w / Them Coulee Boys