Pert Near Sandstone

PAUL/ MINNEAPOLIS, Minn — Pert Near Sandstone independently released Waiting Days Oct 20. Longtime stewards of the modern stringband resurgence, Pert Near Sandstone are known for their contemporary appeal and collaborative spirit with their vibrant music, intricate pickin,’ and inventive lyrics.

“The band seems to forever seize the importance — and sound — of being earnest, while never fearing the somewhat strange. It’s a winning combination, and one worth waiting to hear,” writes Aarik Danielsen in the Columbia Daily Tribune.

It’s a strikingly different world than when Pert Near Sandstone first began nearly two decades ago near the sandstone river bluffs of St. Paul. The former latchkey kids who grew up together a few Mississippi-miles upstream have grown into a band of brothers, bonded together as family. By contrast to tik tocs, reels, and tweets in an ever-changing terrain that is digitally enhanced and quickly refreshed, this album was formed from the wilderness and carved from the heartwood.

Pert Near’s four songwriters/vocalists—also all instrumentalists: Justin Bruhn (bass), Kevin Kniebel (banjo), J Lenz (guitar), and Nate Sipe (mandolin, steel guitars, fiddle)—write songs that speak to the present and are rife with allusions—spanning a breadth of content including traveling songs, concerns of the modern era, and surrealistic scenarios.

Chris Forsberg, a recent inclusion to the outfit, puts his fiddle stamp on the overall sound with turnbuckle solos and harmonious response to the melodies. Trampled By Turtles’ fiddler and original Pert Near member, Ryan Young, recorded and mixed the album during several of the harshest weeks of a midwestern winter in Ryan’s NeonBrown Recording Studio in Crystal, Minnesota. Ryan also added his fiddle and other accouterments to bolster the energy of the songs.

Ryan says, “I’ve been recording Pert Near Sandstone since 2004 when I’d set up some mics to record our practices. I feel like we know each other really well and I know what kind of sounds they are going for. Some songs call for a stripped down feel of friends playing folk music together in a living room, and others are more elaborate with influences from metal to electronic music to rock and more.”

The intimacy of collaboration is at the heart of this album. The interplay of mandolin and fiddle carries much of the music across the songs, and the mixture of guest instrumentalists gives this album a unique tapestry of sounds and texture—with accents of piano, trumpet, choral vocalists, steel guitar, and percussion.

“I think the voice of all the songs on Waiting Days is clearly written from a post-pandemic reality,” says Nate Sipe in an interview with Music Mecca. “There is a lot of searching for a new way to belong from a distance beyond an old way of understanding. I also hear a lot of hope throughout the songs, which I believe is as important, or even more important, than identifying the obstacles that we face in life.”

“Our waiting days are finally over,” the title track from Pert Near Sandstone’s new album decries, echoing the sentiment of a community recently pent up and beyond longing. What can develop from the turbulence of a still dwindling global pandemic and also respond to the noise of prattling politics? Art has its purpose in this exact hour.

Out of Time,” the album’s heaviest hitting song, is a gazette of concerns that we face in troubled times. The explicit itemization is an alarm for movement; the singer’s vocals singe of desperation is motivation to confront the things most feared and to hold on to what is most dear. Anti Music Roots 66 Column’s Kevin Wierzbicki writes, “‘Out of Time’ sounds like R.E.M. performed as bluegrass but the plaintive song dripping with urgency and detailing social ills (guns, pollution).”

Pert Near’s Nate Sipe created an intricate and vintage-looking video collage (with his original artwork) for “Out of Time”

Lest we get lost in despair, we can find rejuvenation in one of the strongest songs, and first radio single, “All Waves Break,” which gestures with surrealism to offset the bleakness of a just-as-wacky reality. The Current, Minnesota Public Radio, NPR listed “All Waves Break” as the Song of the Day (9/29) and it was premiered by JamBase who called the song “poignant.” Watch the Lyric Video for “All Waves Break” here →

“I’ve Been Traveling,” “Soo Line,” and “On To Dawn” are traveling songs, sung by a band that has hit the pavement hard over their time, simultaneously creating a soundtrack for those all night drives that music festival devotees well know. Watch the Lyric video for “I’ve Been Traveling” here→

In “Clouds Are Gathering,” the story and images reach into a field that isn’t always aglow with sunlight, while finding beauty in the tenderness of relationships. “Lay Down Your Burdens” has a simplicity that indeed helps us believe the genuine intentions of Pert Near Sandstone’s creative resolve.

Adventures in Americana premiered the symphonic “Believe,” and wrote, “It’s a beautiful contemplative ballad perfect for early fall… [it] opens gently with only banjo, soon joined by fiddle and gradually the other instruments and vocals. While this often boisterous band is able to reach the stratosphere with their layered sound and blazing fast solos, their interplay throughout this track is soft and tender, highlighting the beauty of each instrument’s individual sound.”

Who To Choose” gives permission to an indeterminate personality to decide their own path in this human condition. The railroad laden album cover looks as though it could be an illustration, “End of The Line,” wherein a conversation between a hobo and railroad brakeman confront the possible obsolescence of their livelihoods. A distant whistle is heard as a token of hope with Sipe’s electric steel guitar sliding into the conversation with a nod to early country music.

Well known for their humor and levity, with charm that is never far from the surface, the connectedness to community is at the core of Pert Near’s music and philosophy. Nobody on earth is having a singular experience, as these songs shine a light upon. We are all here together. As the title track declares, “… I want to take you with me when I go.” Let’s get ready. Now is our time. The waiting days are over.

Stream/buy Waiting Days here →
Or purchase a physical copy on vinyl or CD HERE.


Pert Near Sandstone helped to launch the Blue Ox Music Festival in 2015. Acting as curators and hosts for this prestigious and eclectic roots music event, they have brought in a slew of their favorite performers including Bela Fleck, Tyler Childers, Jerry Douglas, Margo Price, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Billy Strings, The Infamous Stringdusters, Greensky Bluegrass, and more!

The waiting days for Blue Ox Music Festival 2024 are over as well! The 10th anniversary edition of the festival will take place at The Pines Music Park in Eau Claire, WI, June 27-29! Along with Pert Near, 2024 sees performances by The Band of Horses, Sierra Ferrel, WatchHouse, Sam Bush Band, Leftover Salmon, Molly Tuttle and Golden Highway, Del McCoury Band and more!

”We’re very proud of (Blue Ox Music Festival). We’re really thrilled to be a part of it. It’s really injecting a lot of life into the midwestern acoustic groups. It’s kind of developed a life of its own at this point, ” says Nate Sipe to Volume One.

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Kind Words About Waiting Days

“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 promise fulfilled.”
Bluegrass Today, Lee Zimmerman

“Produced by Pert Near Sandstone the 41-minute CD continues in the tradition of music that was ignited by the likes of Old and In the Way with Jerry Garcia & David Grisman, a little of Seatrain, lots of John Hartford, a swipe at Goose Creek Symphony & if Alison Krauss ever chooses to use a different band other than Union Station this is my choice… it’s all delightful to listen to… ”
Americana Highways, John Apice

“There is an underlying theme of railroads and songs of the road throughout… Many of the songs feature clawhammer banjo and include nice interplays between mandolin and fiddle. There is an injection of pedal steel on occasion and even a trumpet, all which adds to the more progressive feel. This new project should be popular with fans and new listeners alike.”  —Bluegrass Unlimited, Bill Foster

“This mighty Minnesota bluegrass group is working to… use their music to charm and connect with its listeners while providing them with a welcome break from the tense and fast-paced world we live in today.”
Music Mecca, Mikayla McGrory

“What sets Pert Near Sandstone apart is its ability to breathe fresh life into folk and bluegrass tunes while staying true to the genre’s timeless spirit. With heartfelt lyrics, this band has continued to make waves in the modern folk and bluegrass scene.”
Bend Source Weekly, Armando Borrego

“Waiting Days [is] a rollicking good time, and after talking with Nate about the tunes he wrote and all the adventures he’s been on I like it even more…and I think you will too!”
Mandolins and Beer Podcast, Daniel Patrick

“Where Pert Near Sandstone differ from many other string bands is that their focus is not on the past, they are definitely in the here and now… ‘Out of Time‘ exemplifies this aspect of the band as they riff on the short-sightedness of mankind… Is it a message of despair and doom? Yeah, that is exactly what it is.”
AmericanaUK, Jonathan Aird

“…they begin Waiting Days with the banjo and fiddle driven romp ‘I’ve Been Traveling.’ Done in an old time bluegrass vein and with lyrics about being forever on the road the song pays homage to the bluegrass masters who came before as well as the oft-heard situation of missing one’s home…‘End of the Line’ is a riding-the-rails tune that Jimmie Rodgers would have loved while title cut ‘Waiting Days,’ a jazzy bluegrass groove, is about heading down the road with a lover, complete with a mid-song mandolin solo. ‘On to Dawn’ is a fast barn dance that, if you believe the lyrics, is fueled by plenty of coffee. This very satisfying set from a band that’s been plying their trade for more than two decades wraps up with the gospel-tinged ‘Lay Down Your Burdens,’ a slow cut that reflects the arrival of a well-deserved rest.” —Anti Music’s Roots 66 Column, Kevin Wierzbicki 

“Overall, this is an album on which each of the act’s songwriters offers theirown individual perspective; each musician adds in their own rhythmic reciprocity to audibly illustrate their train of thought. They offer infectious energy without pushing the pop on an album that includes songs often honest as dirt, pertinent, and pert near perfect for anyone who likes prog bluegrass.”
Something In Music, Will Phoenix, Track by Track Review

“Hosting western Wisconsin’s famously familial Blue Ox Music Festival over the past decade seems to have added to the playful mix of influences and brotherly camaraderie in this frontman-less bluegrass-fueled Americana quartet, as evidenced by the spirited sounds on its new album, Waiting Days. Songs like ‘All Waves Break’ and the winterized title track are laced with post-pandemic hope and a raw elegance”
Star Tribune, Chris Riemenschneider “Critics’ picks: The 15 best things to do and see in the Twin Cities this week” [for hometown release show 2023)

“Call it roots, call it bluegrass, call it Americana– whatever you want to call it, local band Pert Near Sandstone has been killing it and have been putting the Twin Cities scene on the map for years.”
Girl at the Rock Shows, Langen Goldstein [show review First Avenue in Minneapolis]

“Pert Near Sandstone is representative of the new sound of modern Bluegrass, one that hews to a traditional tapestry while still retaining an accessible sound that allows for contemporary credence. Over the course of their seven studio albums, two live discs, and a two-track EP, they’ve slowly built a committed following while also ensuring their credibility with the critics… The Minneapolis-bred band proves the point yet again with their new album, Waiting Days.”  —The Alternate Root, Lee Zimmerman

“This Midwest bluegrass quartet caught my eyes and ears several years back when I went to and covered their rad summer music festival in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, Blue Ox Music Festival. This group of pickers can hang with the best of ’em, and are just nice dudes to boot…  Their singles ‘I’ve Been Traveling’ and ‘Out of Time’ reeled us in on Waiting Days, and the whole thing is full of killer ebbs and flows among the 11 tracks.” —Music Mecca’s Year In Review: Top 15 Folk, Americana, & Roots Albums of 2023, Paul Howard

Listen to the Sisters in Song Podcast interview with Justin Bruhn

“Collaboration remains key to Pert Near Sandstone”
Podcast Interview with Nate Sipe, KAXE/ Centerstage Minnesota, Malachy Koons


Artist Update

Pert Near Sandstone Releases 8th Studio Album, Waiting Days, Oct 20, 2023, Followed by a Cover of The Replacements’ “Can’t Hardly Wait” in April 2024

Waiting Days

“Can’t Hardly Wait” →