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A Bluegrass Deep Dive with No Man’s String Band

Mandolinist Nic Hentges talks music, his influences, and Minnesota bluegrass

No Man's String Band
No Man's String Band

No Man’s String Band are one of the best local bluegrass bands. Their blend of new and traditional bluegrass sound makes each of their albums an interesting listen. Their latest is All is Fair in Love and Bluegrass. 

The band will be playing the Minnesota Bluegrass Winter Weekend on Saturday at 7:00 p.m. Before their big gig, No Man String Band mandolinist Nic Hentges answered a few questions for us. 

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Erik: I’m a huge fan of bluegrass, from its beginnings to the current day. What are some of your favorite bluegrass bands and albums? Any particular favorites that might be considered deep or lesser known? 

Nic: That is a really loaded question. If we’re generalizing bluegrass, then I’d say that collectively the band is really big fans of Trampled By Turtles, The Del McCoury Band, Della Mae, and the Punch Brothers, amongst many others. The first Punch Brothers album Punch and Trampled By Turtles Trouble were very influential for me as an artist.  

It’s hard to know what is a deep cut in the bluegrass world, because we’re already a bit of a fringe genre, but there is a great old-time group from Portland, Oregon called The Horsenecks that I really love. I’d also consider my current favorite bluegrass band, The Po Ramblin’ Boys, to be a bit of a deep cut. They’re starting to gain some serious national attention now and deserve to be a household name! 

Erik: What are your go-to songs at a bluegrass jam? 

Nic: Definitely classics like Stanley Brothers “How Mountain Girls Can Love,” Bill Monroe’s “Blue Moon of Kentucky,” or “Roll on Buddy, Roll On.” And the tunes “Blackberry Blossom” and “Billy In The Lowground 

Erik: Minnesota has a deep bluegrass scene. What local bluegrass bands are you a fan of? 

Nic: We definitely do! We feel very connected with the community through the Minnesota Bluegrass and Old-Time Music Association. Some of our current favorite local performers are The Roe Family Singers, Bill Cagley, Steam Machine, the High 48’s, and Barbaro. 

Erik: What are your favorite venues in the Twin Cities? 

Nic: Our favorite venues to play are the Wiese Auditorium at KBEK in Braham, the Warming House in Minneapolis, and the 318 Cafe in Excelsior. Playing to a listening crowd and being hosted by a venue that truly appreciates having you never gets old. Playing for any of the Minnesota Bluegrass festivals is always an incredible joy as well, they always have incredible staff and fans. To attend concerts, my personal favorite is The Dakota, who has been bringing in some stellar bluegrass and old-time groups lately.  

No Man's String Band
No Man’s String Band

Erik: Your new album is All is Fair in Love and Bluegrass. How did it come about? Is it a departure from the sound of your first two albums? 

Nic: That album is definitely an evolution for us rather than a departure. First off, we become a 5-piece prior to that album, which allowed us to deepen our arrangements. All the songs on the album are love songs but they all come from a different direction. Love takes on so many forms and we wanted to tackle some of those. Sometimes you love someone and they love you back, sometimes they leave you in the dust, sometimes you disconnect from them. There is love between lovers, siblings, friends…. love is an incredibly complex and powerful emotion and makes for great song material. 

Erik: If someone wanted to get a taste of No Man’s String Band in five songs, what would they be? 

Nic: We’re very proud of having a diverse sound, having three lead singers, which makes this question very exciting to me. Harmony singing is a huge part of our sound and that is something listeners pick up on right away. We put a lot of effort into arranging songs so that the words, the emotion, and the way it presents itself as music all fit together appropriately. “Outlaw” “All Aboard” “If It Wasn’t for You” and “Arkansas White Knuckle” from the All is Fair record and “Live” from our previous release, Let The Truth Be Told. Those songs give you a great picture of who we are. 

For more information on the Bluegrass Winter Weekend and to purchase tickets, click here

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Written by Erik Ritland

Erik is a journalist and musician from St. Paul, Minnesota. In addition to writing and editing for a number of local outlets, he founded Rambling On, a Minnesota-focused blog and podcast about music, sports, and culture, in 2012. He began working for Music in Minnesota in 2018 and is a writer, editor, and social media content strategist.

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