It’s one thing to be so technically proficient, you simply dazzle your audiences with ability and execution. In bluegrass realms, that’s an especially important additive. Yet it’s equally essential — perhaps even more so — to make an emotional impact as well, simply by sharing sentiments that listeners can to relate to and narratives that offer a common connection.
Undeniable, the 16th (!) album from the veteran and venerable band modestly known as Nothin’ Fancy, affirms their ability to succeed on both counts. The group, which currently consists of Mike Andes (mandolin, lead and harmony vocals), Chris Sexton (fiddle, harmony vocals, cello, viola), Caleb Cox (guitar, lead and harmony vocals), James Cox (bass), and Jacob Flick (banjo), is not only a remarkable, fully self-contained ensemble (notably, Andes, Cox and Sexton wrote all the material sans any outside contributions), but also an outfit that knows the value of selecting songs that are emotionally engaging. Many are spawned from past circumstance (the nostalgic Bailey’s Ridge, Detroit City Life and Kentucky Bound in particular) as well as from lessons learned while coming of age (Shots You Never Take). Granted, there’s also the prerequisite tales of unfaithful love (the rousing I May Not Take You Back Again and the steady but assertive Leaving’s Up To You), justice Southern-style (the dark and dire Savage 29) and some fiddle-fueled revelry (Return to Dublin), but Nothin Fancy also creates a connection that lingers through a well-balanced combination of memorable melodies and adroit execution.
Notably then, with Here’s To My Life, the album’s closing coda, Andes offers an unapologetic ode to all he’s accomplished thus far, and though he’s clearly reflecting on his own circumstance, he’s also offering some astute advice to anyone who also feels that they’ve been the beneficiaries of a life well lived.
Here’s to the lessons well lived,
Here’s to the bridges that I crossed but never burned,
Here’s to the wrong things that taught me right…
Here’s to never looking back.
It’s an inspiring end to an album that shares no shortage of personal platitudes and is all the more engaging as a result. Undeniable may live up to its title given its simple truths, but it remains that much more affecting as a result.