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Aaron Nicely Gives Moonlight Viewers A Colorful Escape From Quarantine

July 29, 2020

wild rose moonCo-host of Plymouth’s Wild Rose Moon’s Moonlight series, John Bahler, is a man of many bands. Like many musicians, he can adapt and chameleon his way into just about any genre of music or musical aesthetic necessary. With this ability to slip and slide throughout styles comes many contacts and friends in his line of work. For Moonlight’s last installment of July, Bahler’s friend and bandmate Aaron Nicely joined us. Together, they co-founded The Stampede String Band. Together, the band has performed in Indiana, Ohio, and Illinois and has released three albums––with more to come, says Nicely.
Come Friday night, I unfortunately wasn’t feeling very well. Because it is always better to be safe than sorry, I tuned in how viewers of the show do: via the Wild Rose Moon Facebook page at 7:00 and 8:00. I’ve been very lucky to be able to view Moonlight from the in-person comforts of the downtown building’s cozy basement where the show is filmed. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t upset about “missing out” on the night’s performances. However, viewing the show how our faithful audience has been for all these months was actually a fun experience in itself. It was especially entertaining getting to read Aaron Nicely’s wife’s comments throughout the show.
After some friendly banter, Aaron was ready to sing his first song. “Old Mountain”, the song in question, was written about the passing of his grandmother. The song begins almost as a reflection of those feelings. There are a few long strums paired with a somber harmony between Bahler and Nicely (what a nice surprise that was) where they sing, “Please don’t fall Old Mountain, please don’t fall / Of everyone I know, you’re the only one still standing tall / Don’t fall, Old Mountain, please don’t fall.” After the last long note rings out, the song picks up into an allegro-tempoed duet between Nicely’s guitar and Bahler’s mandolin. Lyrics in the song’s bridge allude to a feeling Nicely was talking about before the song. He sings, “I wish I knew every name in the family bible / I wish I knew all the headstones that marked those that are me / I wish I knew all the lessons you had taught me.” The song itself is filled with emotions, feeling almost like an expedition through grief.
His second song of the night, titled “In the Mountains” was written for his wife, who was watching from home. Before he began the song, he talked about his passion for making music available in not only his own daughters’ lives, but also every childs’. He’s an avid member of The Tri-County Beard and Mustache Society, a group that raises money for music education in the area. Soon, he’s playing the mellow and relaxed song. It reads like a fairytale. Many of his songs feel like they should be sung sitting around a campfire out in The Smoky Mountains, and this one is no exception. He smiles, singing, “Take my hand and pull me free / Search for me / I’ll be waiting / In the mountains.”
Then, it was 8:00 and I was sitting at my picnic table ready for the second part of Nicely’s performances. The pine trees surrounding me had the last bits of golden sun peeking through. I knew I’d be watching this installment with the sunset at my side. I do love watching Moonlight in-house… But nothing can beat Aaron’s strong outdoorsy imagery paired with the outdoors themselves!
“Evergreen” was the title of the third song––and my favorite––of the night. Written as a Valentine’s Day gift to his wife, Nicely uses that mountainous imagery he’s known for to set the scene for a playful love story. Bahler once again joins him with striking harmonies and the cheery mandolin. The sound of the mandolin actually works to make it have an almost oceanic feeling. It reminds me of the romance trope of loving long walks on the beach. Although, maybe it’s a long walk on the beach of a lake, since Nicely’s work has a woodlands feeling. The song itself is fast and upbeat. Whether Nicely intended it or not, the tempo actually works to allude to the fast beating heart of a person around their crush. He sings, “Hey pretty darlin’ would you be my queen / underneath the oak and the evergreen / you’re the prettiest thing I’ve ever seen.”
Before I knew it, we were at the last song of the night. “Throw It Away” is an emotion-heavy song of regret. In regret, there’s a sour dreaming about ‘what could have been’ but there’s also the acceptance that ‘what is, is.’ Here, Aaron is going solo, and shining at it. His hard guitar mixed with the soul put into the lyrics and vocals makes for a song that feels like it would play in a film, right after our hero has made a mistake they now have to bear the consequences of. He sings, “When I move on honey don’t worry / I stay gone / A red x on the map reminds me / I’m to keep away.” The song ends on one long strum that brings the night to a thoughtful ending.
As the sun set on my end, I was thankful to have gotten to listen to Aaron’s great writer’s wisdom from the setting that his music seems to call out to. If you haven’t gotten to listen to his episodes of Moonlight, I highly recommend doing so. In our social distanced lives, many of us can’t get the summer escape we desire. Nicely’s music will send you deep into the mountains. There you sit, be it a lone traveler, or with your loved one around a blazing fire, while his bluegrass tunes fill the air. If you’d like to hear more of Bahler and Nicely, The Stampede String Band’s albums––“Moonsville”, “Three Years Waiting”, and “Five: Live at the Hi-Fi”––are available on Apple Music and Spotify.
Moonlight will return on Friday, August 18 with a mystery guest. Both parts will be archived for viewing on the Wild Rose Moon FaceBook page and at the Wild Rose Moon Media YouTube Channel which can be accessed directly from, where a list of upcoming shows can be found. Wild Rose Moon’s Moonlight is made possible by a generous grant from Gibson Insurance and the Gibson Foundation and from Marshall County Community Foundation and Marshall County Tourism.