Old Friend's Waltz (Enessay
No Strings Attached® has added yet another gem to their long list of
recordings with Old Friend's Waltz, release #13, lucky for us. This
Virginia based group of friendly, lively guys mix it up like no one
else. The recording is Celtic in flavor but characteristic of the band's
ability to perform any style of music with the folk instruments they
choose to perform with. Celtic traditional, "Dunmore Lasses/Julia
Delaney" begins this cd. If you're not a Celtic fan, just hang
on for track two. Gershwin's "Oh Lady Be Good", one of my
all time favorite hammer dulcimer jazz standards comes right on in and
even includes a way cool bass break. It just gets better as it goes.
There's also an adventurous version/medley of "Cluck Old Hen/Wheel
Hoss". There's a tie for my favorite track 11, " Walking in
the Air" , the theme song from the animated movie, The Snowman,
and the band's own Randy Marchany's title song, "Old Friend's Waltz"
paired with "Roscommon Reel". Listen for slide bouzouki on
the last cut, a true country romantic classic, "I'm a Hog for You".
Ernie and Patti Hill
2003 Walnut Valley Festival Program From the WV program, September,
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No Strings Attached®
In the Vinyl Tradition, Vol. 1, 2
Enessay Music, EMC-006, (1999)
Fans of the fiddle tune played on hammered dulcimer with taste and excitement
will have no trouble finding what they need with this recording. This
CD is a media modernization for No Strings Attached®, yet "modernization"
is an unusual term to describe the content of "In the Vinyl Tradition."
Previous releases from 1984 (the Isle of Laneghans) and the 1985 (Traditional
Music of the Future) are combined on the CD. The core of the ensemble,
Wes Chappell, Suzy Gorsline, Pete Hastings, and Randy Marchany remained
the same from both records and bass players changed from Russell May
to Bob Thomas with no change in the color of the group's music.
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(Enessay Music, 1996)
(No Strings Attached®, Bill McElroy) is the group's most recent recording
featuring material of David Grisman, Antonio Jobim, Django Reinhardt,
Randy Marchany, and several traditional pieces. It is chock full of
energy, neat rhythms, and dynamic variations. Hasting's incredible harmonica
is featured on a medley of two Irish tunes "Langstrom's Pony"
and "Maid at the Spinning Wheel." Chappell's mandolin and
Marchany's hammer dulcimer trade exciting leads on Grisman's "Learned
Pigs & Fireproof Women." Of course, they say "you know
we had to do a song with a title like that!" The group's humor
is evident in their liner notes, and outrageous song titles are only
part of their appeal. Take a listen to Thomas' excellent bass playing
on "Manha du Carnaval," a song from the movie Black Orpheus,
as he takes a turn with the lead. This recording is available from the
Record Depot (1-800-277-5355).
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No Strings Attached®, Bellinzona,
(Enessay EMC 002, 14 selections)
This is foot-tapping music with a kick. No Strings Attached® takes songs
from a variety of sources and produces a mixture of old-timey, jazzy,
blues, swing, Irish, and traditional, resulting in a remarkably listenable
CD. A piece by Jay Unger, "Vladimir's Steamboat" combines
hammer dulcimer, harmonica, bass and bouzouki, in an instrumental that
really sets the tone of excellence for this CD. This band is unpredictable
in their arrangements, too. The second cut, "Under the Apple Tree,"
a traditional Russian folk song, drifts in to a hot swing number "Rot
Club Swing," featuring the hammer dulcimer with an incredible bass
thrown in. Another characteristic of No Strings Attached® is their wide
selection of instrumentation. "Waltz of the Jewel," written
by band member Randy Marchany, includes a synthesizer, as well as guitar,
bass and hammer dulcimer, and "Spirit Feel," with a jazzy
feel, includes a piano and a slide bouzouki. "Flor de Santa Cruz,"
in a Spanish vein features a Slinky (you remember the toy?). They do
out of the ordinary music, too, like "Manha du Carnival" from
the movie Black Orpheus, and a Portuguese fandango, "Tras O Monte"
which morphs to a number Randy wrote in honor of a 300 person jam at
the Augusta Heritage, "Mariachi Meltdown". No Strings Attached®
has a CD that should keep everyone happy, no matter what your musical
taste. All in all, Bellinzona belongs in everyone's library.
WVA Program 97
What to get next
Three of the six albums the group recorded for Turquoise Records are
still available. All three were nominated for INDIE awards and Take
5 **** was a National Association of Independent Record Distributors
award winner. Blue Roses and Coffee at Midnight are both excellent efforts
and it is difficult to choose among the three.
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The fearless and versatile No Strings Attached® dulcimer band has released
yet another recording that pushes at the very edges of what is expected
of, or even thought possible for, the hammered dulcimer. Without exception
the performances by members Randy Marchany, Bob Thomas, Pete Hastings
and Wes Chapell are virtuosic, and the sound quality of this digitally
mixed and mastered record is very high. The feeling of the cuts is jazzy
and full of swing, with the title piece receiving a stellar rendition.
I recommend this album heartily to dulcimer and jazz enthusiasts, even
though I have two strong reservations about it.
First, at a total of 36:02 for both sides, Take Five
is mighty, mighty brief. My experience as a record producer convinces
me that the public is looking for longer music tapes, and I think that
some purchasers may feel short-changed.
Second, though Pete Hastings' harmonica playing is particularly fine,
the inclusion of "Andalucia," performed by Pete on chromatic
harmonica and Randy on piano, seems an odd choice to include on this
recording and doesn't fit very well within the context of the larger
The instrumentation of Take Five includes hammered
dulcimer, guitar, bass, flute, pennywhistle, mandolin, a very tastefully
used synthesizer, and some amusing sound effects. My favorite selections
are the two remarkable tunes which end side two: "March of the
Picnic Ants," full of poly rhythms and much more interesting than
most "New Age" type compositions, and "Cat Shoes,"
a waltzy minor tune featuring soulful flute playing by Wes, and not
enough of Randy's original brand of hammered dulcimer playing.
Mitzie Collins, Dulcimer Players, Winter 1989.
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Worth Searching for
The remaining trio of releases the group did for Turquoise are harder
to find. Isles of Langerhans, Dulcimer Dimensions
and Traditional Music of the Future are all in limbo
at this point. They aren't available from the label or from the band,
which has been in "negotiating standoff" with the label for
over a year. Hopefully, their differences will be resolved and we can
all get another chance to hear these earlier recordings.
MusicHound Folk: The Essential Album Guide
No Strings Attached® hails from Roanoke, VA and prominently features
the hammer dulcimers of Wes Chappell and Randy Marchany. On "Blue
Roses", their seventh album, a version of "Little
Rock Getaway" is great. Nevertheless, the band's music has
little to do with southern string band music and bears at most only
a very distant relationship to bluegrass.
All that aside, "Blue Roses" proves a superlative
CD, full of rich, vibrant instrumental music that rewards repeated listening.
Although the group's musical progression has carried their sound far
from their Appalachian home, No Strings Attached® has developed into
a unit of compelling power. On this release, the quartet sweeps through
Caribbean, jazz, Celtic and dance music without missing a beat or losing
the attention of the listener. Only on the album's lone vocal piece,
"Procrastination" does the band misstep into a rather banal
island-sounding ode to sorriness.
No Strings Attached® named a previous album "Traditional
Music of the Future". The music on "Blue
Roses" may stray far from the traditional but it definitely
has a bright future. The disc does contain little for the bluegrass
purist but is highly recommended for those interested in cutting edge
Bluegrass Unlimited, 12/93
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Only pure talent and delightful music can be found on Blue Roses,
the latest recording from No Strings Attached® where such instruments
as the bass clarinet, mandolin, bongos and congas, guitars and a harmonica
collide, crash and mesh to bring out one of the best sounding almost
all-instrumental releases to come around in a while. No Strings Attached®
has created an upbeat compilation of music that ranges in sounds from
the early 20th Century to bustling Middle Eastern cities and small Spanish
What really makes the music on Blue Roses stand out
is the musicianship and cohesion of the band, especially Wes Chappell's
mandolin playing on such tracks as Clint Meets Topov, a track inspired
by themes music from a western movie and Fiddler on the Roof.
As curious as that combination may seem, the sound is quite enchanting
and reminiscent of Greek restaurant music. Another shining example included
Los Reyes Oriente which shows the diversity of the musicians. Inspired
by traditional Puerto Rican Christmas music, this piece allows bassist
Bob Thomas to show off and pound his way through the intro while Pete
Hastings takes up the harmonica to display some of the the funnier music
on the album.
Other illuminating cuts include Broken Key Boogie and Kartune, both
inspired by Betty Boop-era shorts and Stride, a kind of salute to Mississippi
steamboats and the blues. In its entirety, Blue Roses
is the kind of lighthearted collection that makes one smile, especially
because the band has gone back to basics in terms of choice of instruments.
Best of all, it proves that simplicity and true musicianship still hold
in an era that is needlessly complicated.
Quotable!, Rapport, Los Angeles, CA, 1/23/95
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No Strings Attached® has assembled a 14 track divertissement which ably
mixes everything from snippets of Enno Morricone movie scores to Latin
tunes and Jelly Roll Morton. Holding the diverse threads together are
a droll sense of fun and a sure-footed arranger's sense of what works
for a quartet of multi-instumentalists typically blending mandolin,
hammered dulcimer, harmonica and bass (or at other times, bass sax,
bouzouki, bongos, etc.). The sole vocal track underscores why N.S.A
is an instrumental ensemble, though not one easily pegged other than
four talented guys playing with a scintillating array of instruments
Make Humphrey, The Record RoundUp, Number 91, Issue 2, 1994
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As an avid proponent of play "inappropriate" music on traditional
instruments, I've long been a fan of No Strings Attached®. From their
early recordings, Isles of Langerhans, through the
later Dulcimer Dimensions and Traditional Music
of the Future, these folks's playing moved farther and farther
from the hammer dulcimer's traditional roots and became more and more
fun to listen to. Their fourth Turquoise release, Take Five, is on of
my three or four favorite "dulcimer" recordings.
After stumbling a bit with Coffee at Midnight, their
previous recording, the band seems back on track with Blue Roses.
While not quite equal to Take Five, the music on this
recording is extremely fun, with nice melodies and wonderful rhythm.
An resemblance of the recording's cuts to traditional Irish or American
music is entirely coincidental; the selections are mostly jazz-based,
with an occasional nod to Latin and classical.
While I enjoy pretty much every cut on this recording, a few do stand
out. The band's cover of Fats Waller's "Jitterbug Waltz" flow
nicely, while both "Kartune" and "Newyorican/Aguinaldo
Orocoveno have a great drive. "Clint Meets Topov", while a
bit repetitive, has a nicely Eastern flavor to it. The calypso-like
"Procrastination" `, the recording's sole song, is a lot of
fun and "Little Rock Getaway" and "Broken Key Boogie"
are infectiously upbeat.
While great listening, Blue Roses is a bit limited
as a dulcimer player's resource. No Strings Attached® is probably the
only group in the country that really needs chromatic dulcimers and
trying to pull dulcimer lines off their recordings would likely be a
long, frustrating process. With any luck, maybe we'll see a collection
of their music in book form someday. I'd sure buy a copy.
CA Traditional Music Society Journal, Sep-Dec, 1994
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To get out of my routine responsibilities - musician-teacher-wife-and-mother
head, I need only reach for Blue Roses by No Strings
Attached®. Rose breeders have been trying for centuries go find a blue
roses, but it hasn't happened yet; blue roses exist only in imagination.
And this may be No String Attached's® most imaginative album yet. This
improbable Big Band - sax, two hammer dulcimers, piano, mandolin, bass,
flute and percussion - wraps itself around swing tunes, boogie-woogie,
honkytonk, stride piano stuff, calypso and hybrids thereof with wit
and ease. With this, their sixth album, they do tributes to Fats Waller
and Jelly Roll Morton, and make up the rest in originals like "Kartune"
(in honor of the little black cat that used to play the piano in the
the Betty Boop cartoons) and "Return of the Picnic Ants" by
dulcimer player Randy Marchany; "Procrastination" by dulcimer
player Wes Chappell; and "Dr. Nightshade" by Pete Hastings,
the groups' guitarist. It can't be easy to be really musical, high energy
and funny at the same time, but these guys do it. If life as a dulcimer
player is beginning to seem too real and serious, I recommend you get
a copy of Blue Roses and lighten up.
Carrie Crompton, Dulcimer Players News, 12/93
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Coffee at Midnight
I count myself a true-blue fan of No Strings Attached®. I've liked their
music from the first album. I've always liked their stage performances,
which keep getting better and better and their festival workshops, collectively
and individually, can be counted on to contain lots of friendly suggestions
and ideas. While I have a few tiny quibbles about this recording, please
know that I consider No Strings Attached® to be one of the most innovative
performing groups around and that Coffee at Midnight
is a very good representation of their creative spirit. My favorite
cut, after many miles of car listening, is the "Romanian Rhumba".
It has a breakneck, hammers flying, cymablom-gone-amok feeling and is
full of simply amazing dulcimer playing. The syncopations of "Unreal"
are really catchy; this piece sounds like it's fun to play. I look forward
to a festival jam session in a few years with several dozen dulcimists
attacking that tune simultaneously! The title melody, on the other hand,
is one that wanders too much in shape and form to ever embed itself
in the collective repertory."Percussed" starts out with kalimba
and then the melody and rhythmic pattern are carried around the ensemble.
I can't figure out which instrument ends up with the melody but the
sound is so big that I felt as though I were going to be eaten alive
by a giant drum. This recording contains some very nice contrasts, with
"Au Jardin du Amour", "Idle Times" and "mixed
Feelings" sounding relaxed and jazzy. There's a real jazz mandolin
break in the traditional "Boys of Balisodare" while Randy
Marchany's "Pachebel's Waltz" has a wonderful classical quality
(with what seems like a totally unnecessary intrusion of a synthesized
string section). The ensemble's tightness really is spotlighted in their
improvisations in the jazz standard, "St. Thomas" with a prepared
dulcimer making some very untypical dulcimer sounds. "Restarea"
remains an enigma; to my son it sounds like the start of his Pirates
computer game, while I think it sounds like a synthesizer trying in
vain to be a harpsichord. And finally, "Reggae Jackson" is
perhaps the only piece of music ever recorded that uses a Slinky as
a percussion instrument. You get the idea!
Mitzie Collins, Dulcimer Players News, 4/91
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Traditional Music of the Future
No Strings Attached® actually has a lot of strings attached, at least
to their instruments. Three of the Roanoke area quintet play hammer
dulcimer (enough said!). The band's members also perform on guitar,
mandolin, bowed psaltery and bass. There are, perhaps, no strings attached
to the variety of flutes, penny whistles, harmonicas and other wind
instruments they play, but you catch my drift. I wonder if they use
a semi to haul all their stuff to gigs.
With this much instrumental eclecticism, it's not surprising that No
Strings Attaches is broad ranging in its musical tastes as well. However,
what the group plays and how the group plays, it stays pretty close
to the feeling of the traditional music of the British Isles, evidently,
the common bond for the band's members. With a few forays into other
modes - a Latin samba here, a Gershwin classic there and a couple of
tasteful uses of synthesizer for tonal color - the group truly does
present what might be called traditional music for the future.
The playing is tight and the emphasis is on melody, even when things
get their most energetic. It's a tribute to the band's taste and the
musicianship that everything is so well arranged and beautifully played
when there might have been so many opportunities for musical anarchy.
A cleanly recorded and well mixed production provides added pleasure
for the listener. There's really not a disappointing cut on the whole
album. The sound of the hammer dulcimer predominates, sometimes haunting
and eerie, sometimes ethereal, sometimes leaping with excitement. No
Strings Attached® has to be one of the finer groups building its art
between the wide musical horizons of this unique instrument. Fans of
the hammer dulcimer and related traditional music's - past, present
or future - will be pleased with this one.
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