By Ron Wynn
NASHVILLE, TN — Vocalist Alecia Nugent thrilled and delighted bluegrass fans with a trio of outstanding LPs on Rounder between 2004 and 2009. Hailed for her assertive, rangy voice and masterful way of storytelling and delivering lyrics, Nugent became a welcome addition to the Nashville music scene. She made some 71 appearances on the Grand Ole Opry, even once joining her father Jimmy Nugent, whose vintage bluegrass and country sound shaped her approach growing up in Hickory Grove, Louisiana.
But after being on stage from her childhood days to 2009, Alecia Nugent made a life-altering decision. With her father suffering from lung cancer, she returned home. Nugent made raising a family and caring for her father the central priority until his death and the departure of her three daughters from the nest.
Now, after more than a decade away from performing, Alecia Nugent has returned with a wonderful new LP “The Old Side Of Town.” The release also satisfies a longtime desire. “I always wanted to do a classic country album,” Nugent said during a recent interview. “Rounder was a great place to record, but they really wanted me to concentrate on bluegrass and I understood that. I would sometimes do some songs with a country side to them, but this is the first time I’ve been able to do a complete country project.”
“The Old Side of Town” nicely segues from poignant tributes to biting refrains, blending powerful cover songs like the Tom T. Hall title track with Nugent’s own stirring originals, most notably “They Don’t Make Them Like My Daddy Anymore” and the somber but extremely memorable “Too Young For Words,” which recalls the tragically premature death of her daughter’s boyfriend at 21 due to a truck accident.
Interestingly, though Nugent’s voice still sounds triumphant and glorious, she acknowledges that it wasn’t so easy returning to the microphone after so much time away. “Vocally getting back to where I felt I needed to be was the toughest part,” she said. “In fact I did have a hard time in the beginning stages, and even now sometimes it takes a bit to get going. But Keith (producer Keith Stegall) knew just what to say when I needed encouragement.”
But not everything on “The Old Side of Town” is somber. “I Thought He’d Never Leave” is hilarious, while she demonstrates her proficiency at survival in the dating/relationship game on “The Other Woman” and “Too Bad You’re No Good.” Stegall also assembled a super cast of musicians backing Nugent, among them fiddler Stuart Duncan, guitarist Brent Mason, and steel player Paul Franklin, a chance to shine too.
While COVID-19 put a huge dent in planned events to support the recently released project, Nugent hopes to be able to do some things in 2021. Meanwhile she urges all those fans who loved her bluegrass records to get “The Old Side of Town,” which is available on all digital formats and streaming services. “I think this is my roots showing,” Nugent concludes. “It’s true to the music I grew up hearing, but it’s also reflective of some things I’ve gone through recently, and I’m really proud of it.”