FY5 make a clear case for the fact that subtlety and finesse can go hand in hand, especially when it comes to making music that aims to make a lingering impression. It’s an instinct that’s clearly paid off well; named official showcase artists for the 2017 International Bluegrass Music Association conference and given a songwriter spotlight for the band’s vocalist and guitarist Mike Finders, they’ve been able to make a mark without finding the need to be overly obtrusive or intentionally aggressive. Softer hues are more a part of their sound than the collective frenzy that can often accompany a full-on assault, and the attention given each individual member of this five piece ensemble finds their music surprisingly satisfying as a result.
For the aptly titled The Way These Things Go, their 4th effort to date, FY5 — the aforementioned Mike Finders (guitar/vocals), Erin Youngberg (bass/vocals), Ryan Drickey (fiddle/strings/harmonies), Rich Zimmerman (mandolin/harmonies) and Aaron Youngberg (banjo/pedal steel/harmonies) — mostly steer matters with quieter intents. Lead-off track White Colored Pencil provides a sweetly shimmering introduction that seduces listeners right from the get-go. Waitress Waltz offers another ideal example; plied by a strolling mandolin and the sparse addition of an accompanying fiddle, the band opt for an easy glide that illuminates the song’s title. I’ve Been In Love Before comes across as more blues than bluegrass, given its solitary strum and assertive vocal wail.
Then there’s That’s Why I Don’t Sing Love Songs Anymore, an album highlight that soars with a well defined orchestral flourish.
Even those songs which find the band in more of a full press forward — Couer d’ Alene, That First Stone, No Other Heart’s As True As Mine, and Charlie Schumacher in particular — show a certain amount of restraint even when combining their collective efforts, easing into the instrumental arrangements with quiet confidence without feeling the need to overwhelm their audiences. Indeed, the jaunty tones of Even If You Never Call Me Back testify to their tenacity as much as any other offering the album has to offer.
FY5 deserve credit then for their ability to charm and caress, crafting music that defines the essence of the grassicana sound, taking the traditional trappings of bluegrass and melding it with the gentler inclinations of heartland harmonies. It’s a distinctive combination that allows for a rustic refrain and the possibility for attracting the wider audience they so decidedly deserve. It’s little wonder then that The Way These Things Go proves such a prophetic title.