Haunting double-bass bowing opens the Transylvanian folk song “Gypsy Reel,” which is arranged by Minnesota roots music ensemble Pert’ Near Sandstone as a klezmer piece. The pace of the song quickens out of its languid opening sequences, aiming toward the too-fast-for-footwork tempo on much of Up and Down the River. For the tweakers by the speakers, the tune offers twitch-fodder galore.
It’s when the band takes their time, however, that the music opens into novel harmonies and fresh arrangements. “It’s Not Bad” has bluegrass in its genome but is another creature nonetheless, a dense waltz sporting vocals as ethereal as the stringed instrument bowing that accompanies them. And “Summer Skies” is perhaps the most interesting offering on the album, a finger-plucked ballad that’s evocative of David Grisman and Jerry Garcia’s collaborations. It’s also the only song without a fiddle on the album.
That instrument, whether wielded by Nate Sipe or Ryan Young, otherwise dominates, driving the rhythm to an often frantic pace and imparting a hayseed ethic to songs about marrying rich and drinking hard. Good-natured howling and foot stompin’ mountain music from the opening track, Up and Down the River fairly reeks of pine pitch and saw dust. The aural thrills, however, happen mostly when the dust is settling. (Jason Wiener)
Pert’ Near Sandstone opens for Trampled by Turtles at The Other Side Wednesday, Oct. 17, at 9 PM. $10/$8 in advance.