No Strings Attached

Years at Winfield: 

Randy MarchanyWes ChappellBob Thomas, and Jim Crawford are No Strings Attached; a Roanoke/Blacksburg Virginia based quartet of basically traditional musicians who have been making music since 1978.

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, Nickel Creek, Doc Watson, Stephen Bennett, Tommy Emmanuel, the Dixie Chicks, Turtle Island String Quartet, John Hartford, and John McCutcheon. They have played in European venues such as Cardiff Harbour Festival, (Wales), the Pontardarwe Festival (Wales), the Cork Dulcimer Festival (Ireland), Folk Club 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 Walnut Valley Festival (Kansas) and 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. The band's newest member, Jim Crawford, is a musician, filmmaker and cultural geographer. In 2005, after eight years of work, he completed an hour long documentary on the history of the Bright Leaf tobacco culture called, "Down in the Old Belt: Voices from the Tobacco South". This award winning film (first place documentary at Appalachian Film Festival, screening and lecture at the Library of Congress, commendation by the Virginia General Assembly 2006) was picked up by PBS and has played on 100 plus PBS stations across the US, including 9 of the top 15 markets. 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. Some of the awards the band has received for its albums include nominations for the NAIRD INDIE awards for "Best Album - String Music Category" in 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1990 and 1992. Their 5th album, "Take 5" won the Indie award for Best Album in 1988.