Pert Near Sandstone Balance Their Bluegrass With Populist Appeal

Pert Near Sandstone | Rising Tide | Pert Near Music
Four out of Five Stars

Videos by American Songwriter

Over the course of a 15 year career, which has produced eight albums and continuing kudos from the critics, Pert Near Sandstone has not only helped to define the Minneapolis music scene, but also helped further the connection between the ballyhoo of bluegrass and its ever-increasing populist appeal. While the band is clearly eager to express enthusiasm for the traditional trappings conveyed through banjos, fiddles, mandolins and clogging (yes, they have a full-time clogger in their confines), they’ve also been unafraid to occasionally push the parameters and add other elements to their musical mix.

Granted, a certain archival feel remains a constant throughout Rising Tide, especially as it applies to the jaunty backwoods sway of “Castles in the Air,” the fiddle frenzy of “Water’s High and Rising,” the whoops and wallop of “Hell I’d Play,” or the song that bears a title which is  particularly apt for our era, “No News Is Good News.” Nevertheless, the rocksteady revelry also allows for an aural assault of another kind, as found in “Kings and Clowns (which we premiered and talked with the band),” especially in the closing coda’s suggestive psychedelia. “Border Song Waltz” meanders into another realm entirely, its mariachi horns providing a kind of south of the border saunter. 

The variety doesn’t end there. “It’s Not Your Fault” brings the Band to mind through a similarly tattered tapestry. Other offerings, such as “Stuck in My Mind,” boast a celebratory stance that’s so instantly infectious, there’s no need to confine the music to a specific style. 

“We know what our strengths are, and what kind of direction we can go in with the music,” Nate Sipe, one of the band’s multi-instrumentalists, told American Songwriter when asked about their diverse dynamic. “In typical fashion, we tend to go in a lot of different directions within each album. We have elements of old time, we have elements of rock and roll, a little bit of jazz, a little bit of country. We have a well-rounded eclectic sound. We don’t just have a single voice. We do different things to keep the audience interested and to keep ourselves interested. It’s fun to be able to apply that to a single album. It becomes an interesting sonic journey.”

Indeed it does, and because the band boasts four individual songwriters, it further affirms that diversity. So too, given the fact that they share a player in common with their twin city contemporaries Trampled By Turtles — that being fellow fiddler Ryan Young —other influences are allowed to intrude on the MO. The result is nothing less than a riveting series of songs that ensure a creative consistency throughout. It’s little surprise then that Rising Tide finds Pert Near Sandstone at the peak of their prowess.

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