If you're looking for experimental, push-the-limits newgrass, this isn't it. If you're looking for good, solid, stomp-your-feet bluegrass with a little bit of a contemporary twist and some impressive playing, Pert Near Sandstone's newest album won't disappoint.
At first listen, The Hardest Part of Leaving sounds pretty much like every other bluegrass album: Largely up-tempo, lots of fast finger-picking and men singing harmony in reedy voices. And really, that's what these musicians are all about—capitalizing on a sound that so many of us know and love, while adding a few flourishes to make it their own.
One place where Pert Near differentiates itself is in the lyrics, which explore traditional bluegrass subjects with a more thoughtful, contemporary feel. For example, the song "Old Man at the Mill" is not just a square-dance tune, but a meditation on complex relationships, fate and continuity: "The same old man, sittin' at the mill, the mill turns around of its own free will. One hand in the hopper and the other in the sack, the ladies step forward while the gents fall back." Pert Near produces what many others of its ilk doesn't: Bluegrass worth carelessly dancing to, but that's also worth taking the time to sit down and listen.
Pert Near Sandstone plays the Top Hat Thu., May 8. Doors at 9:30 PM, show at 10. $10.