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“The Old Side of Town” — Alecia Nugent’s Country Album Debut

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Photo Credit: David McClister

It’s kinda strange but two of my best friends and great singers liked the same song: Alecia Nugent and George Jones. Both recorded “The Old Side of Town” — two of my favorite records. I’m not taking sides but one is
better looking than the other one.
— Tom T. Hall

Alecia Nugent is embracing her roots in classic country on The Old Side of Town, her first collection of new music in 11 years. Already familiar to bluegrass fans through three albums on Rounder Records, Nugent turned to producer Keith Stegall and a number of Nashville’s most accomplished studio musicians for The Old Side of Town — where the fiddle and steel guitar are perfectly matched to Nugent’s emotional vocals, original songwriting, and hard-won perspective.

A native of Hickory Grove, Louisiana, Nugent absorbed the country and bluegrass music of her father Jimmy Nugent’s group, the Southland Bluegrass Band, which he launched in 1972, the same year she was born. Sitting around the piano, her parents also taught Nugent and her two older brothers how to sing Southern gospel songs and bluegrass harmony. As a kid, she was a natural on stage and got hooked on the applause; she stepped into the role of lead singer in her late teens.

Looking back on the last 10 years away from the music, I feel like I’ve grown up — personally, spiritually, and vocally,” she says. “I still try to sing with volume, when I need to. It’s how my daddy taught me. But not all songs can be delivered the same way. It’s about emotion, not volume.” With a laugh, she adds, “Daddy, if you’re listening, don’t blame me, life turned me this way!

Your father Jimmy started his group, the Southland Bluegrass Band, the same year you were born. What are some of your favorite memories singing Southern gospel songs and bluegrass harmony with him?

Daddy loved to have fun on stage telling jokes and stories, and even little skits in the songs, like “When I get to glory, I’m gonna SANG, SANG, SANG.” It was always fun, then when it got serious with songs like “Daddy’s Hands”, he took every word to heart and would always hug me when the song was over and tell me he loved me.

After getting to share the Opry stage with your father, and in your words, “living his dream”, what song, besides your own, would you play in his honor next time you play from the circle?

Other than “They Don’t Make ’em Like My Daddy Anymore”, I would like to do “Who’ll Sing For Me” which would be really hard considering I’ve heard my dad sing it many times.

After returning home to help care for your father and raising your daughters, you moved back to Nashville from Louisiana. What would you say are the biggest changes in country music in the past ten years?

The way we all hear our music… by streaming playlists and downloads instead of pulling out the albums and CD’s

Single, “They Don’t Make ’em Like My Daddy Anymore”. Co-written with Carl Jackson (who also produced Glen Campbell’s farewell album “Adios” and your first three albums). What’s the best advice Carl shared with you while writing the tribute song?

Know what the bullet points are in the song in order to tell the story and write around those.

I think growing up in bluegrass, you have a little more appreciation for instrumentation.” Your latest song spotlights your band, including fiddler Stuart Duncan, guitarist Brent Mason, and steel player Paul Franklin. How is the instrumentation different in the country versus the bluegrass versions of the song?

We pulled the electric guitar and the steel guitar out of the mix, and asked Rob Ickes to overdub dobro and added mandolin to give it more of an acoustic feel.

Your fourth album, “The Old Side of Town”, will be released later this month. The title track was written by Tom T. Hall. Hall and his late wife Dixie offered you work when you returned to town, as long as you continued working on your music. What is your favorite song by Hall to cover and why?

My favorite would be “Harper Valley PTA” cut by Jeanie C Riley. A song like that had never been written before it, and I don’t think there’s been anything close since. It paints a real life story of a gutsy woman who doesn’t let the town people get her down. Back in the day it was written, women didn’t speak up so much, because it was looked down upon. It was so clever of Tom T.

On the new album you wrote, “I can’t say that every song in there is about my life, but a lot of it is. It’s an album full of life, it’s an album full of death, and it’s all the brokenness in between.” How difficult is it to perform such personal lyrics?

It is difficult at times. Usually the first few times singing a new song like that live, I get choked up, but it gets easier with time. It’s self-therapeutic.

“I think for the most part, most people who enjoy bluegrass music are also interested in classic country, so this record’s just me, letting my roots show.” Which artists most influenced your classic musical roots?

Haggard, Jones, Vern Gosdin, Keith Whitley, Reba McEntire, Connie Smith, Patty Loveless.

If your first show post pandemic is on your dream venue stage, where will you be performing?

The Grand Ole Opry, I hope

Besides music, what have you been doing during the quarantine down time? Any fishing?

Unfortunately, no fishing. I need to find a fishing buddy who knows where to go lol. My mom was here for 9 months receiving care at Vanderbilt, and went home to Louisiana in April, so this record was on the back burner until she got well. Since April, I’ve taken advantage of this time to work on this new music release, in hopes that 2021 will be raring to go.

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