Mountain Fever Records
Nothin’ Fancy’s second release on Mountain Fever varies a little from what they gave us on their first. Bands that have been around this long (22 years) don’t often leap up in ability from year to year. Nothin’ Fancy is already at a high level of performance. They remain so here.
Where this recording differs is in song selection. This latest has six Andes originals, two from guitarist Caleb Cox, and four covers, of which only one, a relatively unchanged version of “Bringing Mary Home,” complete with Duffey-esque vocal inflections, is a standard.
Story songs make up a half or more. Three of them are minor ballads. “Andersonville,” written by roots rocker Dave Alvin, is the strongest, full of forceful imagery told from the perspective of a soldier taken to that infamous prison camp. The slight rock feel works well and the band handles it well. Almost as good is Damon Black’s ominous “Simon Crutchfield’s Grave,” though lyric-wise it is more conventional. Caleb Cox counters that with a solid song, “Bus Fare,” that even as it looks at a man down on his luck, has a positive air about it. That’s followed by Andes’ lighthearted “Daddy Made Moonshine” with its old-time rhyme and melodic form.
Standing above all those, however, are two other Andes originals. One is the title opener, an engaging, upbeat song cast in a solidly traditional setting. The other is “Friends And Lovers,” equally up and engaging and made all the more so by the structural and melodic references to ’70s pop country. Throw in Andes’ fine, guitar-supported gospel quartet, “Lord Hear My Plea,” and you have an album with much to recommend. (www.nothinfancybluegrass.com)BW