For their latest studio album, Discovery Of Honey, Pert Near Sandstone capture the essence of their syrupy smooth bluegrass sound that has won them a legion of dedicated fans across the country. Those same fans were overjoyed to hear word of the return of founding member and original sound engineer Ryan Young, bringing the sound they fell in love with from the beginning back. Utilizing the full array of their talents, Pert Near Sandstone have created a bluegrass album that tours the conventions of their genre in new and exciting ways.
Opening track “Bloom Again” finds the spirit of renewal front and center, musically and lyrically. While openly wishing for a path back to the place where it all started the sound of the band has seemingly already returned. Pert Near Sandstone have always shown themselves to be masters of blending their impressive talents, whether they share a single mic onstage or weave their magic in the studio. Such skills and dynamism allow the messages they are trying to convey to come to the forefront without losing the rich and dense runs for which the players are known.
All great mountain music is propelled through group effort and the percussive approximations created by mandolin player Nate Sipe and bassist Justin Bruhn. Bruhn are truly selfless. The pair happily do the grunt work on tunes like “Rattlesnake” and “Don’t Need You,” helping drive the narrative while still supplying flourishes and crisp solos. Every team needs role players, and Bruhn leads by example in his willingness to serve the song over ego. “Animal Instinct” revels in the inescapable connection to our base instincts while each of the string player pass the lead baton with an effortless air that is a direct result of Bruhn’s efforts..
Whether slowing it down to a country waltz like the earnestly progressive “Enough Said” or the high wire fireworks of “Bay Road” banjo player Kevin Knielbel manages the impressive task of switching from lead to accompanist on the fly as well as any to play the instrument. While fiddler Matt Cartier shares his duties with Sipe onstage and in the studio his bowing is easy to distinguish thanks to his tone, speed and control. Cartier’s contributions to the most haunting tracks on Discovery Of Honey, the lonesome “Getaway” and album closer “Biting My Nails” adds to the overall air of high plains space.
Pert Near Sandstone has managed to create an album that not only celebrates their strengths while pushing their boundaries with material that is a true step forward for them. Musically their progression from their earliest days to now has sown in them the gravitas needed to tackle weightier subjects like those that pepper Discovery Of Honey. Equal comfort as their more rabble rousing party tunes. In a world where if you’re not moving forward you’re falling behind Pert Near Sandstone takes massive strides on their latest release and the music world is all the richer for their efforts.