Make way for Alecia Nugent. Astride her new sophomore Rounder Records release, A Little Girl…A Big Four Lane, the unassuming lady from Hickory Grove, Louisiana is poised to set the woods ablaze while cutting wide swaths of new roads for herself. In collaboration with Grammy-winning producer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Carl Jackson, Nugent has crafted a remarkable sophomore effort that is unapologetically personal – both in the way Nugent internalizes and delivers a lyric and in the unique musical settings that she and Jackson constructed.
“Alecia is really at home with this music,” Carl Jackson explains. “It’s not absolutely hardcore bluegrass, and it isn’t absolutely country, either. We just tried to make a great album.”
A Little Girl…A Big Four Lane opens in high and hard bluegrass gear with a kick-out-the-lights take on Larry Cordle and Leslie Satcher’s “Too Good to Be True.” Whether navigating a knee-buckling ballad like her duet with the soulful Bradley Walker on “When it Comes Down to Us (It’s All Up to You)” or a white-knuckling free-for-all like “Breaking New Ground,” she misses nary a step.
Highlights continue throughout, from a mountains-moving “A Dozen White Roses,” which grabs for the heart and tugs a ton, wrenching tears one lyric at a time on this ballad of a man in sight of life’s end, to an intoxicatingly moody “Muddy River” with backing vocals by Jackson and Rebecca Lynn Howard.
The cast of supporting musicians is impressive confirmation of Nugent’s stature among her fellow artists, and includes such A-list pickers as Jackson (guitar, banjo), Adam Steffey (mandolin), Rob Ickes (Dobro), Jim Van Cleve (fiddle), and Andy Falco (guitar). In addition to Rebecca Lynn Howard, the roster of harmony vocalists boasts Alison Krauss (on the bittersweet “You’ve Still Got It”), Doyle Lawson and Jamie Dailey (on the rousing gospel closer “Meet Me in Heaven”), and Cia Cherryholmes.
There is a subtle autobiographical thread connecting the songs on A Little Girl…A Big Four Lane, the songs echoing the path Alecia Nugent took to arrive where she is today. Tunes like “God Knows What” and “Letters From Home” express with unflinching honesty the difficult choices and subsequent consequences of life that say a great deal about where she’s been and where’s she’s going. “She really feels these songs,” Jackson says. “I’ve heard her say, ‘These songs are me.’ And I think so, too.”
Nugent’s career was born of a life in music, thanks to her parents’ strong influence. Performing throughout the south with her family band, Alecia sights influences as varied as Reba McIntire, Carl Smith, Ray Price, and Loretta Lynn. Mix in the indelible sounds and styles of legendary bluegrass acts like Flatt & Scruggs and the Stanley Brothers, and you have some idea where Nugent’s unmistakable style originated
Nugent met her producer, Carl Jackson nearly 15 years ago, when she had the opportunity to sing with him and Larry Cordle at a local event. “Carl believed in me from the beginning” Nugent explains. “Having him produce my albums, means a great deal to my career. He’s such a professional. I think Carl definitely brings out the best in me.
A Little Girl…A Big Four Lane is intended to touch lives, move people in need of music that’s more than just something nice to listen to as the day passes by. For a great number of folks, music isn’t simply background fodder with which to accompany them through their lives; for many of them, songs can indeed say that which they would like to say, but can’t.
“Music is therapy for most people,” Alecia says. “They want to hear music that touches them, that means something to them. That’s what I like to sing. It’s the greatest feeling in the world when fans come up to you, saying that you touched them. That’s a great reward.”