Twenty-three years and eleven albums into their career, the five members of this Shenandoah Valley, Virginia band have hit an impressive stride and have clearly earned themselves a berth in contemporary bluegrass music’s front ranks. I have to confess that until listening to It’s A Good Feeling, I was unfamiliar with Nothin’ Fancy’s sound. Only now do I realize what I’ve been missing. The fabulous songwriting, picking, and singing on these eleven tracks simply blows me away.
At least two of the founding members of Nothin’ Fancy, singer/mandolin player Mike Andes and banjo player Mitchell Davis, cite Charlie Waller & the Country Gentlemen and the Seldom Scene as primary influences. I mention this, because these influences serve them in excellent form on standout tracks such as “Lonely Dancer” (co-written by John Hartley and Phil Baggaley) and the soulful “Guitar, Suitcase, And A Bible” (written by Andes). These two songs are merely the icing on the cake. Other delights include a knocked-out revival of Jim & Jesse’s “Hard Hearted” and an imaginative reworking of the Charley Pride honky-tonk hit of yore, “Kiss An Angel Good Morning,” written by Ben Peters.
Yet another highlight is a somber prison ballad called “Steel Bars.” It’s one of four songs on the album (including the title tune) penned by Andes, who emerges here as both a masterful writer and singer. (Mountain Fever, 1177 Alum Ridge Rd. NW, Willis, VA 24380, www.mountainfever.com.)BA