This year is already shaping up as a good year for the long-running Virginia bluegrass band Nothin’ Fancy. At the end of last year, they released their ninth CD, the self-titled Nothin’ Fancy and, in February, captured the SPBGMA Entertaining Group Of The Year Award for the fourth time in five years.
The group begins their 18th year with this latest CD and long-time fans won’t be disappointed. Of the 12 tracks, vocalist/mandolinist/guitarist Mike Andes wrote six and bandmate/fiddler/multi-instrumentalist Chris Sexton penned one. The rest of the album is rounded out with tunes by Don Rigsby, John Fogerty, Shawn Byrne, Peter Rowan, and Dixie Hall. This group of writers delivers a well-rounded effort as Andes’ “Soldiers Letter” and “Fly Off The Hill” set the tone early, and “Things Will Never Be The Same” winds the recording down with hints of the Statler Brothers sound from the ’80s. Fogerty’s “Lookin’ Out My Back Door” is an old favorite, and Hall provides yet another winner with “Uncle Ernie’s Fiddle.” However, in an era when many groups are either shying away from instrumentals or using them for fillers, Sexton hits a home run with “Storm Clouds Over Manassas,” a fiddle-centric foot stomper featuring nice banjo work from Mitchell Davis. Of course, Nothin’ Fancy has become known for injecting humor into its live shows, and even the slowest reader can figure out that the track “Grandma Bought A Hog” will fill that role.
Tony Shorter on bass and Gary Farris on vocals round out a well-planned, solid effort. Fans who turn out to see this group at festivals all over the country will no doubt appreciate the recording and rank it among the best Nothin’ Fancy has turned out recently. (Nothin’ Fancy, 1972 Spruce Ave., Buena Vista, VA 24416, www.nothinfancybluegrass.com.) MB