They play the instruments string bands have been playing for years and some you would have never imagined. NO STRINGS ATTACHED is a quartet based in Roanoke/Blacksburg, VA that features the following instruments:
two hammer dulcimers, guitar, bass, harmonica, bouzouki, pennywhistle, flute, kalimba, synthesizers, bass and tenor clarinets, bass and tenor saxophones, Slinkys, steel drum and percussion.
Their music is described as "eclectic, jazz on acoustic instruments, world beat" and they have stretched the boundaries of string music beyond traditional concepts. The Washington Post described them as "one of the more adventurous string ensembles today". Primarily an
instrumental band a typical concert features songs by Dave Brubeck, Thelonius Monk, Sonny Rollins, the Chieftains, Bill Spence, their own original songs and vocal selections by Lambert, Hendricks and Ross, Dan Hicks and the Coasters.
They wrote and perform the theme song for the PRI radio program, "World Cafe". The eclectic brand of music they play has allowed them to open for artists such as Mary Wilson and the Supremes, Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Doc Watson, Turtle Islan String Qaurtet, John Hartford, John McCutcheon. Maddie McNeil and Nick Blanton and Ralph Gordon. They have played venues ranging from the J.F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, PRI's "Mountain Stage" and "World Cafe" radio programs, CBS-TV's "Morning News" program to major festivals such as the Walnut Valley Festival, Winfield, KS, Autumn Hills Festival, Winsted, CT, Augusta Heritage Week, Elkins, WV, and the Pacific Rim International Music Festival, Los Angeles, CA. They've played in European venues such as the Pontardawe Festival and Cardiff Harbor festival in Wales, the Cork Midsummer Festival in Ireland and the Folk Club Zuriche in Switzerland.
The band's music has been recognized by the music industry in a variety of ways. Six of their last nine albums have either been nominated or won the National Association of Independent Record Distributors (NAIRD)"INDIE" award for "Best Album in the String Music Category". The "INDIE"
is the independent distributors version of the Grammys. National Public Radio plays cuts from their albums on their "All Things Considered" and "Morning Edition" news programs.
Their stage shows are just as entertaining as the music they play. They've been known to dance the tango with their instruments, parody old rock and roll bands, clog while playing old-time tunes and use the Slinky (yes, the old toy you used to play with as a kid) as a percussion instrument.
The band members don't cite strong folk music influences. Bassist Bob Thomas comes from the jazz, rock and bluegrass worlds and is one of the vocalists in No Strings' stage show. Bob takes the word "bassist" to heart since he'll also play the bass clarinet and bass saxophone during their concerts. He says, "My aim is to own a bass instrument from every instrument family". Wes Chappell is the other
vocalist and the multi-instrumentalist of the group. It's not unusual to see him play seven or eight different instruments during a set. "My background is rock 'n roll, but I'll play any style I can get away with", he says. Harmonica player, Pete Hastings, has become well known
for his virtuosity on the chromatic and diatonic harmonicas.
Pete studied under harmonica master, Howard Levy, for a number of years and also doubles as the group's guitarist. Randy Marchany plays the hammer dulcimer and keyboards and was trained as a classical pianist.
Wes says,"We came from different directions and this is
where we met." Indeed, the band's selection of material draws from their varied backgrounds. This variety of styles is one of the cornerstones.
Their first two albums were more along a traditional vein but even then there were a few songs that were definitely jazz-oriented. The group started moving to a more contemporary sound with the release of their third album, "TRADITIONAL MUSIC OF THE FUTURE". Cuts from
this album appeared on NPR's news program, "All Things Considered" and the group's reputation as an eclectic band was established. Their fourth album, DULCIMER DIMENSIONS, continued the trend toward original and contemporary styles. "We started to have some real fun when we did TAKE 5.", says Wes. Just looking at some of the song titles (Dance of the Aisle, Dust on the Mantle, Planxty Clint Eastwood, March
of the Picnic Ants, Cat Shoes) gives a clue to the approach taken by the band. The group's rendition of the Paul Desmond/Dave Brubeck classic, "Take 5", remains one of their most requested songs in concert.
Their sixth album, COFFEE AT MIDNIGHT, continued experimenting with new instruments and styles to take advantage of the hammered dulcimer's distinctive sounds and capabilities. One of the songs from this album, "Reggae Jackson" became the theme song for the PRI radio show, "World Cafe". Their seventh album,
BLUE ROSES, has a world music flavor with musical styles ranging from Caribbean and Portuguese to basic Jelly Roll Morton stride style blues.The title songe from this album was written for a traveling theatre production of Tennessee William's play, "The Glass Menagerie". Their eigth album, "Bellinzona" continued with the world music trend with Brazilian, Klezmer, jazz, Portuguese and Latin motifs. The CD title is the name of a town the band visited during their Swiss tour. Their ninth album, OLD FRIENDS WALTZ, is basically a "request" CD containing songs that have been the most popular with their fans over the band's 25 year existence.
Their albums have been acclaimed as examples of new
styles of hammer dulcimer music. "I'm sure a couple of them have gone aluminum by now", comments Randy. Critical awards for their work include placing "Runner-up" for "Best Album, String Music Category" for their 1985-6 albums, TRADITIONAL MUSIC OF THE FUTURE, and DULCIMER DIMENSIONS, from the National Association of Independent Record Distributors (NAIRD). In 1988, their jazz influenced album, TAKE 5, won the NAIRD "Indie" award for "Best Album, String Music Category". Their last two albums, COFFEE AT MIDNIGHT, and BLUE ROSES were nominated for the 1990 and 1992 NAIRD "Indie" award.
-------Another bio on the band------
An award-winning quartet based in Roanoke/Blacksburg, Virginia, No Strings Attached actually features hundreds of strings playing music described as "eclectic, jazz on acoustic instruments and world beat." Much like Clark Kent appears ordinary for the most part, only to become Superman after visiting a convenient phone booth, No Strings is superficially a traditional string band focusing on instrumental arrangements, but they consistently stretch the boundaries of string music beyond traditional concepts. The Washington Post accurately described them as "one of the more adventurous string ensembles today." While their recordings feature traditional acoustic music, they also incorporate material by Dave Brubeck, Thelonious Monk, Sonny Rollins, the Chieftains, and Bill Spence, as well as their own originals. The eclectic brand of music they play and their exciting stage personae--think Cirque du Soleil and you're close--has allowed them to open for such artists as Mary Wilson and the Supremes, Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Doc Watson, Turtle Island String Quartet, John Hartford, and John McCutcheon. They have played in European venues such as FolkClub Zuriche (Switzerland) and in U.S. venues ranging from the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and CBS TV's Morning News program to major festivals such as the Pacific Rim International Music Festival in Los Angeles, California. They wrote and performed the theme song for the PRI radio show World Cafe. On stage, they typically dance the tango with their instruments, parody old rock and roll bands, clog while playing old-time tunes, and sometimes use the slinky (yes, the old toy) as a percussion instrument. The band members don't cite strong folk music influences. Bassist Bob Thomas comes from the jazz, rock, and bluegrass worlds and is one of the vocalists in the group. He takes his role as "bassist" to heart, playing acoustic bass, bass
clarinet, and bass saxophone, with the goal of "owning a bass instrument from every instrument family." Wes Chappell is the other vocalist and the multi-instrumentalist of the group. His background is rock and roll, but he plays in a variety of styles. Harmonica player Pete Hastings has become well known for his virtuosity on the chromatic and diatonic harmonicas, having studied under harmonica master Howard Levy for a number of years. Hastings also doubles as the group's guitarist. Randy Marchany, who plays the hammer dulcimer and keyboards, was trained as a classical pianist. So, given their varied backgrounds, perhaps the band's selection of material isn't all that unusual. This variety of styles is one of the cornerstones of their appeal.
Source: MusicHound Folk: The Essential Album Guide