Alecia Nugent

Hillbilly Goddess

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There's something nicely defiant about the title to Alecia Nugent's third album, and her tone is a little bit sassier than usual as well. It opens with a saucily strutting blues number, which she just about pulls off -- but the bluegrassy arrangement never quite leaves the ground and she never settles fully into the groove. She follows it up powerfully, though, with a pitch-perfect country weeper called "Don't Tell Me," and then hits you again with the title track, which features banjo deity J.D. Crowe. From there on out things are pretty much top-notch: she absolutely owns the regretful barroom honky tonk of "Dyin' to Hold Her Again" and the equally emotion-laden "Last Greyhound," and if "Wishin' Hard" seems a bit unfocused, it's probably because of the song -- it's not because she doesn't pour herself into it. Nugent's crystal-clear voice and powerful delivery make her a joy to listen to, even when her material isn't quite up to the standard of her singing. And the lineup of supporting musicians she's gathered for this project is very impressive: apart from Crowe, you'll hear Bradley Walker, Andy Leftwich, Rob Ickes, and other A-list sessioneers. Hillbilly Goddess may not stand head and shoulders above her previous work, but it's a solidly respectable addition to her already impressive catalog.

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