Pert Near Sandstone independently released Waiting Days Oct 20. Longtime stewards of the modern stringband resurgence, Pert Near Sandstone are known for their contemporary appeal and collaborative spirit with their vibrant music, intricate pickin,’ and inventive lyrics.
“The band seems to forever seize the importance — and sound — of being earnest, while never fearing the somewhat strange. It's a winning combination, and one worth waiting to hear,” writes Aarik Danielsen in the Columbia Daily Tribune.
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 grown into a band of brothers, bonded together as family.
Pert Near’s four songwriters/vocalists—also all instrumentalists: Justin Bruhn (bass), Kevin Kniebel (banjo), J Lenz (guitar), and Nate Sipe (mandolin, steel guitars, fiddle)—write songs that speak to the present and are rife with allusions—spanning a breadth of content including traveling songs, concerns of the modern era, and surrealistic scenarios.
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. Trampled By Turtles’ fiddler and original Pert Near member, Ryan Young, recorded and mixed the album during several of the harshest weeks of a Midwestern winter in Ryan’s NeonBrown Recording Studio in Crystal, Minnesota. Ryan also added his fiddle and other accouterments to bolster the energy of the songs.
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 intimacy of collaboration is at the heart of this album. The interplay of mandolin and fiddle carries much of the music across the songs, and the mixture of guest instrumentalists gives this album a unique tapestry of sounds and texture—with accents of piano, trumpet, choral vocalists, steel guitar, and percussion.
“I think the voice of all the songs on Waiting Days is clearly written from a post-pandemic reality,” says Nate Sipe in an interview with Music Mecca. “There is a lot of searching for a new way to belong from a distance beyond an old way of understanding. I also hear a lot of hope throughout the songs, which I believe is as important, or even more important, than identifying the obstacles that we face in life.”
“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.
“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. Pert Near’s Nate Sipe created an intricate and vintage-looking video collage (with his original artwork) for "Out of Time" → https://youtu.be/7Qpi3y20jxc.
Lest we get lost in despair, we can find rejuvenation in one of the strongest songs, and first radio single, “All Waves Break,” which gestures with surrealism to offset the bleakness of a just-as-wacky reality. The Current, Minnesota Public Radio, NPR listed "All Waves Break" as the Song of the Day (9/29) and it was premiered by JamBase who called the song “poignant.”
“I’ve Been Traveling,” “Soo Line,” and “On To Dawn” 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.
In “Clouds Are Gathering,” the story and images reach into a field that isn't always aglow with sunlight, while finding beauty in the tenderness of relationships. “Lay Down Your Burdens” has a simplicity that indeed helps us believe the genuine intentions of Pert Near Sandstone’s creative resolve.
Adventures in Americana premiered the symphonic “Believe,” and wrote, “It’s a beautiful contemplative ballad perfect for early fall… [it] opens gently with only banjo, soon joined by fiddle and gradually the other instruments and vocals. While this often boisterous band is able to reach the stratosphere with their layered sound and blazing fast solos, their interplay throughout this track is soft and tender, highlighting the beauty of each instrument’s individual sound.”
“Who To Choose” gives permission to an indeterminate personality to decide their own path in this human condition. The railroad laden album cover looks as though it could be an illustration, “End of The Line,” wherein a conversation between a hobo and railroad brakeman confront the possible obsolescence of their livelihoods. A distant whistle is heard as a token of hope with Sipe’s electric steel guitar sliding into the conversation with a nod to early country music.
Well known for their humor and levity, with charm that is never far from the surface, 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.
Pert Near Sandstone on Tour
10/20 Fri - Portland, OR - The Jack London Revue
10/21 Sat - Centralia, WA - Juice Box
10/22 Sun - Seattle, WA - High Dive
11/3 Fri - LaCrosse, WI - Mid West Music Fest
11/8 Wed - Lincoln, NE - Zoo Bar*
11/9 Thu - Ft Collins, CO - 830 North*
11/10 Fri - Boulder, CO - Velvet Elk Lounge*
11/11 Sat - Denver, CO - Ophelia's*
11/24 Fri - Chicago, IL - Park West*
11/30 Thu - Alluvial Brewing - Ames, IA^
12/1 Fri - Mankato, MN - Mankato Brewery^
12/2 Sat - Minneapolis, MN - First Avenue^
* w / Henhouse Prowlers
^ w / Them Coulee Boys
Looking ahead to 2024
2/9 - White Pine, MI - 34th Annual Midwest Telefest
6/27-29 - Eau Claire, WI - 10th Blue Ox Music Festival