Saturday night I took the wife and attended the Alecia Nugent concert in nearby New Castle, Virginia. It should be no surprise that Alecia put on a great show, she’s won awards recently from both IBMA and SPBGMA for her singing. She’s also a fine entertainer. And what a band! With Andy Falco on guitar, Ashby Frank on mandolin, Thomas Wywrot on banjo, and Jennifer Strickland on bass added to Alecia’s vocals, you’ve got a recipe for some great bluegrass music.
The first set opened with the Osborne Brothers standby Listening To The Rain, and a fair number of other standards were sprinkled throughout both sets making for a pleasant mixture of traditional and original tunes. Breaking from accepted practice, Alecia honored a request and ended the first set with a slow sad song from her self titled first CD. The title of the song is Paper and Pen. If you haven’t heard it, you can find audio samples on Rounder’s website. Be warned, it’s a sad one.
Let me give you my impressions about the band Alecia has touring with her now.
I’ve known Andy Falco for several years and have been a fan of his guitar playing since I first heard him set pick to string. Saturday night Andy got an enthusiastic response from the crowd on nearly every guitar solo. There is just something about his bluesy, downstroke driven, aggressive style that has something of Monroe’s mandolin style in it.
Ashby Frank has been a good mandolin player for a long time and he’s only 23, but Saturday night I was really struck by the economy of movement in his right had. I was sitting in the front row and could really see the ease with which he played. It’s very enjoyable to watch a musician with that kind of control over their instrument. I rest easy in the knowledge that bluegrass music will continue to grow, expand, and excel into the future in the capable hands of young pickers like this.
Thomas Wywrot I had known as a guitar player, but I was quite impressed with his ability on the banjo. He was driving and aggressive without being overbearing. He worked the mic like a pro making plenty of room for the guitar and mandolin in the mix. During the first set he played an original instrumental of his own composition that I didn’t catch the name of, but it was an enjoyable tune that got the crowd stirred up nicely.
Jennifer Strickland I didn’t know before Saturday night. I was pleasantly surprised to find she is Missouri girl. Having grown up outside KC myself, I always get a kick out of meeting another Missourian on the bluegrass circuit. She did a great job on the bass and harmony vocals all evening.
And that’s just the band. Alecia herself lived up to her title as the Traditional Female Vocalist of the Year, as recently awarded by SPBGMA. If you’re a fan of good bluegrass singing, you need to make a point to go hear Alecia.
Overall this was a great show. The material was good, the performance was great, the MC work (shared by the entire band) was funny and entertaining, and the whole experience was enjoyable. If Alecia and band happen to be in your area (tour schedule is on her website), I encourage to take the opportunity to go hear some fine bluegrass music from this award winning singer and her band.