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Old Friend's Waltz (Enessay Music, 2002)
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, 2000
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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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Take 5
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 ensemble pieces.

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

Blue Roses
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 acoustic music.
Bluegrass Unlimited, 12/93
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Blue Roses
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 towns.

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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Blue Roses
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 and sounds.
Make Humphrey, The Record RoundUp, Number 91, Issue 2, 1994
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Blue Roses
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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Blue Roses
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.
Bluegrass Unlimited,
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