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Alecia Nugent goes down big four lane

By Dave Bagdade, June 2006

Alecia Nugent has been around bluegrass all her life, but it is only within the last few years that she has achieved notoriety outside her home state of Louisiana. Her father, Jimmy Nugent, led the Southland Bluegrass Band, and it was through this group's local and regional performances that Alecia first came to the public eye. Festival producer Johnny Stringer offered to underwrite a recording project, and Grammy-nominated producer Carl Jackson, an old friend, agreed to become involved.

Nugent's self-titled debut was released in 2001, and the following year, Rounder Records co-founder Ken Irwin was sufficiently impressed with what he heard to sign her to Rounder. Nugent's debut was re-released on Rounder in the spring of 2004 to popular and critical acclaim. Nugent just released her second Rounder album, "A Little Girl . . . A Big Four Lane."

CST:As good as the first record was, the new one seems to represent a major step forward. Obviously that's what you and (producer) Carl Jackson had in mind when you were setting out to get it going. Talk a little bit about the process of getting the record going and how it ultimately came to fruition.
AN:Well, I mean, it's so many months of trying to pick out material for the album, once you try to narrow down the songs...You go through so many great songs, and you have to try to narrow it down. You have to kind of see if they all fit together and to try to choose... uptempo material is the hardest for me to try to find. I really wanted to do everything...I didn't want to have to do any traditional songs...like Stanley Brothers stuff. I mostly wanted to do stuff that hadn't been cut before or not cut very much, you know. So we, between Carl and I both, we put our heads together, and whatever material I liked, he liked, thank goodness.

CST: This is the second project you've done with Carl, and obviously you feel a rapport with him, which is understandable. What is it specifically about working with Carl that enables the two of you to get the results that you get?
AN:I think it has to do with knowing Carl personally for so many years, 15 years. We've been close friends for probably seven or eight of those years, and having a producer who knows you and knows what kind of music makes you feel good, you know, and the music you like to sing, and he knows my weaknesses...in the studio and my strong points also. That really makes for a good combination...with a producer and artist. I think that's what makes it work so well.

CST:Now one of the more controversial decisions that was made with respect to the album was including a drummer on several tracks.
AN:When Carl and I first talked about putting drums on the record was I guess after I heard the Louvin Brothers project he had recorded or that he had produced...Of course, I loved it. So many of the songs that were on the Louvin Brothers project, I couldn't even tell that a drum was there. I said, "that's what I want on my record, to be able to have that percussion and that big sound." The decision in who the drummer is played a big role in that because there are not that many drummers out there who could do what Tony Creesman does on this project, you know, where he knows how to be tasteful and not be out front and just be the extra beat that we need.

CST:What are the two or three factors that draw you to a particular song?
AN:One of the huge factors would be a song that tells a story. I like songs that tell a story because when I'm listening to a song, it keeps my attention if I know there's a plot to it, or... there's going to be something at the end of that song that tells what happened through the whole song, and you have to listen to the whole song to be able to get it. Those songs are really my favorite. I really look for that a lot in a song. If it's not a story song, then I look for a certain groove that a song has...how it makes me feel in singing it...I have to be a fan of the song in order for me to be able to sing it. I feel like if I'm a fan of it, then my fans are going to be fans of that material. People like to be able to relate to songs and songs that tell stories they can relate to.

CST:Well, it's been an interesting year for you since the first record came out, and now the new one. Could you talk a little bit about the way the year has gone for you, as an artist and personally, since the release of the first record?
AN:It's been really different since the first record...having a sophomore release. The industry people kind of look at a sophomore release and want to compare it...To me it's always more of a challenge to come out with a sophomore record, and people are really wanting to review it that reviewed the first one and to compare and see if the challenge was met. The year's been really good. It kicked my year off with the new CD release because my first CD was released, self-released, in 2001. Rounder picked it up and released it in 2004, and it seems like it's been forever since I've had a new project out. So I think it's really kind of pumped up the volume a little bit on my show dates, and I've done lots of...I did two CD release parties this year. Both of those were so much bigger and better than those for the debut album. You know, it's nice to feel like there's more of a buzz going on with the second CD than there was with the first one. So, yeah, it's kept me busy for the first part of this year.

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