The title of IBMA award winning, multi-instrumentalist Nick Dumas’ new album is autobiographical in every possible way. He was introduced to bluegrass music by his dobro-playing grandfather at an extremely tender age. After picking up the violin when he was 12 and joining his school orchestra shortly thereafter, he was enlisted in his family band, The Three Generations, which then included his mother, his aunt, and his grandfather. Still, he didn’t stop there. He soon became adept on guitar, banjo, and mandolin, the instrument he plays on his aforementioned new album.
Dumas’ professional career took another positive turn when he helped found the band Northern Departure before going on to join another popular group known as North Country Bluegrass. However his big break came when he took on the mandolin duties for the nationally known outfit, Special Consensus, helping the band gamer IBMA’s nod as Instrumental Recorded Performance of the Year in 2016 for their song Fireball, and later, a further pair of IBMA awards and a Grammy nomination besides.
Not surprisingly then, Story of a Beautiful Life is as confident — and accomplished — as one might expect from an artist who can claim such stellar achievements. The opening title track is a celebratory statement that expresses the sheer satisfaction that comes from making music. At the same time, even those tracks that lack vocals — Big Sciota, Sunset Falls, Cherokee Shuffle, and North of Lonesome — manage to parlay the same infectious attitude, with Dumas’ lithe mandolin playing conveying absolute exhilaration. And while Dumas wrote the majority of these entries — the Stanley Brothers’ homespun homily Who Will Sing For Me, Leroy Dumas’ Fish Caught a Bird, Norman Blake’s Greenlight on the Southern, and a pair of traditional tunes providing a few exceptions — he can’t claim credit for this effort entirely on his own. An able support crew adds instrumental embellishment while underscoring an overall sense of joy and devotion. At the same time, the songs provide a tuneful tapestry that enhances these rich, resilient melodies throughout.
Ultimately, Story of a Beautiful Life comes across as an album that provides assurance and solace in these difficult times. If music is a salve for the soul, then credit Dumas with sharing that beautiful life with the rest of us as well.