NOTHIN’ FANCY

NOTHIN-FANCYNOTHIN’ FANCY
BY ANY OTHER NAME

Mountain Fever Records
MFR151030

You have to admire the longevity and the dedication of Nothin’ Fancy. I first reviewed the band some time in the late 1990s, upon the release of Earn Your Ticket. They were just getting started, more or less, good but not great. All these years later, four of the five guys on that CD are still with the band, and their sound should put them very close to the top-tier bands. This is their 12th album.

At their core is still mandolinist Michael Andes. He wrote 9 of the 12 songs here and, with a smooth resonant midrange voice that is sounding better than ever, sings most of the leads. His knack for writing instantly engaging songs in a diverse array of styles is fully on display. He opens with the relaxed and upbeat resignation of “Love, War And Games,” with its “Gentle On My Mind” kind of flow, then shifts gears dramatically to “Blue Tears,” a period-sounding honky-tonk number that’s not far off from any of the classic songs in that genre. He shifts again to a solid four-part gospel tune “Sing Hallelujah,” then in short order to a mining tragedy song, a humorous and swingin’ tune about a “Wanna-Be Farmer,” and then an ode to craftsmen everywhere, “Silas Brown.” His “Broken Too Soon,” a 3/4-time tale of making and failing to keep vows is one of the best tracks here, along with the two openers. Their cover of “Last Train From Poor Valley,” given a touch of Irish lilt, is also up there.

Through all these shifts and moods, the supportive roles—soloing and harmony vocals of fiddler Chris Sexton, banjoist Mitchell Davis, bassist Tony Shorter, and newcomer guitarist Caleb Cox—are everything you could want and make this a very good recording. (Mountain Fever Records, 1177 Alum Ridge Rd. NW, Willis, VA 24380, www.mountainfever.com.)BW

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