Don’t let the spelling of her first name lead you to believe Alecia Nugent is one of those overly affected country divas the labels trot out with lugubrious regularity. Instead, her debut album harkens to the days when bluegrass was new and unadorned voices with a country twang were the norm.
Populated by refreshing neo-traditional arrangements, this self-titled release presents a strong case for Alecia Nugent’s imminent stardom.
Producer Carl Jackson assembled a stellar group of pickers for Alecia’s first release. He handles guitar and banjo duties, while Ben Isaacs plays bass, Aubrey Haney fiddle, Ronnie McCoury mandolin, and Randy Kohrs dobro. Harmony vocalists include Jackson, Rhonda Vincent, Jimmy Nugent, Rebecca Lynn Howard, Larry Cordle, Jerry Salley, and Sonya Isaacs.
Material here ranges from standards such as Lester Flatt’s “I’ll Stay Around” to contemporary tunes by Jackson and Larry Cordle. Regardless of the author, every song feels as if it was written for Nugent.
Jackson’s arrangements highlight Nugent’s voice the way a fine haircut frames a face. Each player delivers wonderful musical moments, and in every case, their contributions add to the songs’ power, rather than draw attention away from the tunes. The cover of Carter Stanley’s “Think of What You’ve Done” typifies the album’s approach. The pace is slowed so Alecia’s voice can soar. The solos swing, rather than race, through their moments in front, echoing Alecia’s bluesy phrasing.
Engineer/mixer Luke Wooten delivers a sonic package with bows on it. The sound is clear, warm, and inviting. Alecia’s voice is always front-and-center, but never too out front. Instead, her supporting superpickers surround her so they sound like a band, not a solo act.
I hope this is a rousing success, not for altruistic reasons, but selfish personal ones – I want to hear another release from her.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Aug. ’04 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.