Pert Near Sandstone is well on their way to becoming one of the more influential ensembles setting the course for progressive bluegrass today. Their allegiance to its timeless template is undeniable, but it’s equally clear that they can also create melodies that leave an indelible impression. In that regard, they can claim a formidable track record that proves that point — some seven studio albums that not only share exacting arrangements, but also songs that coax the listener into revisiting the material again and again. That, in turn, ensures a familiarity factor that grows stronger with every hearing.
Although their origins lie in Minneapolis — a place one might not necessarily consider a center of string band activity — Pert Near Sandstone quickly established a formidable presence that brought them instant credibility practically from the get-go. Marking their debut with a live album was certainly a bold step, but the decision paid off. Credit a skilled quartet — bassist Justin Bruhn, banjo player Kevin Kniebel, guitarist J Lenz, and Nate Sipeon mandolin, steel guitars, fiddle — for not only being skilled songwriters, but adept instrumentalists as well.
To be sure, they have some able support on the new album as well, courtesy of an added instrumental arsenal that incorporates hints of brass, keyboards, pedal steel, and massed backing vocals that fill out the sound as needed. Likewise, Ryan Young, who engineered and mixed the sessions, deserves credit as well. A one-time member of Pert Near Sandstone early on, he’s now finding success playing a part with Trampled By Turtles. Yet he also remains faithful to his former colleagues as well, contributing organ and fiddle in addition to duties behind the boards.
Not surprisingly then, Waiting Days offers any number of stand-outs, whether found in the instantly infectious strains of I’ve Been Traveling, All Waves Break, 500 Lines, On To Dawn, Who To Choose and the title track, or the more measured sounds of Clouds Are Gathering, Believe, and Lay Down Your Burdens. To be sure, there’s a cautionary perspective underscoring several of these songs, none more so than within Out of Time, a song that serves as a clarion call to action in order to forestall imminent threats to the planet and its populace.
Ultimately, these striking songs — rich in both melody and meaning — make this a highly impressive effort overall, one that ought to assure Pert Near Sandstone’s place of prominence within the realms of the modern bluegrass elite. For those that predicted the band’s success early on, patience and perseverance makes this Waiting Days a promised fulfilled.