Alicia Nugent - Hillbilly Goddess

Alicia Nugent - Hillbilly Goddess

HILLBILLY GODDESS

Rounder Records
1166106122

The 11 songs included here find Alecia Nugent in partnership with the cream of the Nashville/bluegrass songwriters, among them Carl Jackson (who also produces), Larry Cordle, Jerry Salley, Tom T. and Dixie Hall, and Tim Stafford. It also finds her lovely voice wellsupported by Andy Falco, Andy Leftwich, Adam Steffey, Rob Ickes, and Thomas Wywrot. Together they have created a pleasant recording that’s as much country as it is contemporary bluegrass, one in which the banjo appears on just four tracks while the piano appears on five, and drums on all but one.

The forms and tempos are also mostly of a country bent. Seven are slow. Of these, the two best are the dreamy meditation on the price of seeking stardom (“Just Another Alice”) and the more traditional shuffling country of “The Writing’s On The Wall.” The latter is a duet with Bradley Walker that recalls those classic breakup songs from George Jones and Tammy Wynette.

Two of the faster songs, drums or not, may (if they haven’t already) find their way up the bluegrass charts. “Wreckin’ The Train” is a crackling number set over pizzicato train rhythm, casting Nugent as a woman to whom good things happen, but ruins them by letting her rambling nature get the best of her. “Hillbilly Goddess” presents a portrait of a woman more at home with tractor pulls and doublewides, more comfortable in Paris, Tenn., rather than Paris, France, and who considers sushi fishing bait. Backed by the crisp drive of J.D. Crowe’s banjo, it should prove a crowd favorite.

Beyond her singing, what sets Nugent apart is her ability to make the songs believable. Perhaps some of that comes from hard experience, perhaps some from the ability to sympathize and synthesize, and perhaps some from sheer talent. Regardless of its source, it makes for some compelling listening. (Rounder Records One Rounder Way, Burlington MA 01803, www.rounder.com.) BW