When Rounder signed Alison Krauss they struck commercial gold. She's sold more CDs than the all the other artists in the Rounder Catalog combined. Judging from the upscale image and packaging on Alecia Nugent's latest, Hillbilly Goddess, I suspect that Rounder is hoping for lightening to strike twice. But Nugent is far more hillbilly, and less mainstream, than Krauss. That's Nugent's appeal – she is a true hardcore bluegrasser who delivers more down-home fire than even reigning bluegrass queen Rhonda Vincent.
Alecia Nugent burst onto the scene in 2004 with a self-titled album. In my review I wrote, "Her debut album harkens back to the days when bluegrass was new and direct 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." 2006 saw the release of her second album, Little Girl …A Big Four-Lane. It continued Nugent's upward trajectory, featuring her direct vocal style and top-notch backup band. Since then Nugent has been honing her focus and image. The fruit of her labors is Hillbilly Goddess. Produced again by Carl Jackson, this album focuses even more on Nugent's interpretive strengths.
Like the great vocalist Bradley Walker, who joins Nugent on the Larry Cordle classic, "The Writing's All Over The Wall," Nugent's singing is a combination of nuanced guilessness and sophisticated simplicity. It is the antitheses of the sort of overwrought theatrics you hear on American Idol and from most pop divas. Nugent always finds the most emotionally direct way to get from A to B. Even the backing musicians, who include Tim Stafford on guitar, Adam Steffey on mandolin, and Andy Leftwich on fiddle, opt for concentrated power rather than flashy solos and fills. The musical results prove that Nugent is more than ready to take on all comers for the title of "Hillbilly Goddess."