Here’s a double serving of very good music. Not only does this CD serve as a demo of the great original material of this talented Ohio-based singer/songwriter, but it’s also simply an enjoyable collection of well-sung and well-played bluegrass music. You can tell that Mike Andes is writing from experience. But even if you haven’t toured one-night stands (“The Songs I Sing,” kicked off with attention-grabbing, classic late 1950s Monroe-style twin fiddles, a great touch) or if you never played barefoot as a child (“Fields Of Yesterday”), his lyrics will ring true with you.
Andes’ skill is shown by how some of his simple verses can blindside you with subtle but powerful sentiment. “By Herself” portrays a widow’s aged isolation: She can’t bear to turn the TV on/ Wheel Of Fortune’s not the same since he’s been gone…The flowers in her garden take the place of her children. Although the project is firmly grounded in bluegrass, a few of the numbers have a pleasing modern country sensibility, notably the standout track “Those Old Feelings.”
Andes himself has a sincere vocal style and is an exceptionally facile mandolinist and flatpicking guitarist, too. The arrangements typically suit the material very well, as witness the appropriately slashing and driven mandolin solos on “Storm Of Love.” “Bailey’s Dance,” also an Andes original, is a lighthearted but surprisingly haunting instrumental—one of the most enjoyable I’ve heard in some time.
Everyone on the album solidly matches and supports Andes’ ambitions. They are so good, and so many are already well known to Bluegrass Unlimited readers and all merit a mention: Darren Beachley and Becky Mason (harmony vocals), Mark Clifton (Dobro and Weissenborn slide guitars), Mark Delaney (banjo), Chris Sexton (fiddle, viola, cello, and harmony vocals), and Marshall Wilborn (bass). Like all good songsmiths, Andes realizes that his creations “don’t always describe me; sometimes I guess they do…,” but “I’ll put the past behind me and sing my songs to you.” That he does, so lend your ears. (Mike Andes, 7550 Refugee Rd. SW, Pataskala, OH 43062, www.nothinfancybluegrass.com.)RDS