From the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia, comes one of the most entertaining bands in the bluegrass genre, Nothin’ Fancy. As a matter of fact, they’ve won the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music in America (SPBGMA) award for Entertaining Group of the Year six times!
Nothin’ Fancy was formed as a bluegrass band in 1994 to compete in a bluegrass competition. Ever since then, they have grown in popularity, released 17 full length albums, and continue to perform at festivals across the United States, Canada, Holland, and Norway. Some of our previous venues include the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, TN, the Lincoln Center in New York City, and the Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia. They have successfully hosted their own Nothin’ Fancy Bluegrass Festival every year since 2001 in Buena Vista, Virginia (with 2020 and 2021 excluded due to the pandemic years). Their full-time touring schedule has earned them one of the most loyal fan bases in all of bluegrass music.
Nothin’ Fancy recorded four independent albums before signing to a record label. The founders of the band were mandolinist and primary lead singer/songrwriter Mike Andes, Guy Carawan on fiddle, Mitchell Davis on banjo and bass vocals, Gary Farris on guitar and tenor (and occasional lead vocals), and Tony Shorter playing an upright bass and singing baritone vocals and usually being featured on a few show-stopping lead vocals. Guy parted ways with the band after their first album Bluegrass in a Plain Brown Wrapper, and Chris Sexton stepped in as a session musician in 1998 and was eventually hired on board after recording the albums Earn Your Ticket and Field of Dreams with the other four founding members. The band recorded Now and Then with the lineup they retained for a remarkable 18 years. In 2002 they released their debut recording for Pinecastle Records, Once Upon A Road. This album earned them a showcase at the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) Convention and two nominations for the IBMA Emerging Artist of the Year Award in back-to-back years. The title track “Once Upon a Road” been written for the band by legendary songwriter Tom T. Hall and his wife Dixie Hall and was recorded at the Halls’ personal recording studio at their home outside Nashville. Their second CD, Reflections, received innumerable accolades and proved that they were one of the new powerhouses in the genre, and while it has many powerful and emotional songs, it ends with a twist of humor with the Mike Andes original, “I Met My Baby in the Porta-Jon Line.” Their 3rd project with Pinecastle, Album #7 (featuring a future Doyle Lawson long-time sideman Eli Johnston on bass and vocals while Tony Shorter was on a hiatus) continues to receive rave reviews from disc jockeys and fans alike, and it features a fan favorite, “The Touch of Your Hand,” written by Martha Trachtenberg. Tony Shorter returned on bass, and it was time to release an album at the request of gospel fans. Lord Bless This House captures Nothin’ Fancy’s distinguished sound, vocal harmony, spirituality, and friendly charisma, and was produced by the acclaimed Rhonda Vincent and her brother Darrin Vincent (of Dailey and Vincent fame) and showcases vocal appearances by both producers. In 2011, under their new label, Virginia Dreams Records, they released their latest self-titled CD, Nothin’ Fancy. This album holds true to their Nothin’ Fancy sound while introducing a few new pieces to the Nothin’ Fancy puzzle. Following the departure of Gary Farris (replaced by Justin Tomlin from the Deer Creek Boys), Nothin’ Fancy was honored to record their first Christmas album, A Nothin’ Fancy Christmas as a collaboration with National Media Services out of Front Royal, VA. Their love of traditional Christmas music can be heard in each self-produced, self-arranged song under the direction of fiddler and multi-instrumentalist Chris Sexton. Already with 18 years and 10 full-length albums completed, Nothin’ Fancy released Most Requested, Volume 1 in 2013. Justin Tomlin eventually retired from Nothin’ Fancy and returned to the Deer Creek Boys and was replaced by Jesse Smathers, who went into the studio with Nothin’ Fancy for the last Virginia Dreams recording The Test of Time (a collection of traditional bluegrass songs and songs considered part of the standard repertoire). Nothin’ Fancy then signed to their current label, Mountain Fever Records in 2015, which was an auspicious year with the band’s then-members being initiated honorarily into Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia (a national music fraternity) and being honored as the 2015 inductees into the Virginia Country Music Hall of Fame by the Virginia Folk Music Assocation (VFMA), which features notables such as Roy Clark, Patsy Cline, Tony Rice, Ralph Stanley, the Statler Brothers, and Jimmy Dean. Jesse was soon asked to join the Lonesome River Band and he was replaced by Caleb Cox. Under the guidance of Mark Hodges and the skillful production of Mountain Heart alumnus Aaron Ramsey, Nothin’ Fancy returned to the charts with By Any Other Name’s lead track “Love, War, and Games.” The album Where I Came From introduced the songwriting talents of Caleb Cox to radio audiences with his heart-wrenching song “Bus Fare.” That album would be Tony Shorter’s last recording with Nothin’ Fancy as the band and Tony parted ways in 2017, and Caleb’s brother James Cox became the new bassist. The next project It’s a Good Feeling marked James’ debut and featured a few more contributions from Caleb Cox paired up with Mike Andes’ prolific output of original material. In 2018, the next album Time Changes Everything became a summation of Mitchell Davis’ history as he retired from the road. The album was a reflective collection of mostly cover songs with four songs being contributed by Andes and Cox. Replacing the veteran Davis on banjo fell to Jacob Flick, a longtime fan of Nothin’ Fancy and a student in the East Tennessee State University’s Appalachian studies program. The group returned to the Mountain Fever studios for an all-original album featuring seven Mike Andes originals, four from Caleb Cox, and reworked instrumental from Chris Sexton. This 2019 album, Undeniable, got notable airplay from the track “Diggin’ Coal” by Andes. Caleb left the group at the end of 2020 at the height of the pandemic (and eventually joined the US Navy Bluegrass Band a.k.a. Country Current), and the group made a bold move to do auditions via Zoom and hired Jacobe Lauzon from Ontario, Canada as the new guitarist, making Nothin’ Fancy an international act. The next album, which is due to officially be released in October 2023, is a tongue-in-cheek title: Here We Go Again, which both nods to the pandemic and having to adjust to change. It featured songs by Mike Andes and James Cox and featured a tribute to the late songwriter John Prine, who was among those who perished from the COVID pandemic, in a unique rendition of Prine’s song “Paradise,” which has become a fan favorite despite not being an original. By the end of 2022, both Lauzon and James Cox had left the group. Nothin’ Fancy was fortunate to audition Curt Gausman, a veteran of bluegrass from the 1980s and 1990s when DC was a big bluegrass destination, at the 20th annual Nothin’ Fancy Bluegrass Festival. In search of a bass player and using substitute bass players for the opening months of 2023, Nothin’ Fancy found a bass player that had what they were looking for in a single-named bass player named “Jenkins.” Now with a complete band, Nothin’ Fancy has been amazing crowds with tight intense harmony and dazzling instrumental prowess and are very excited about 2024 as the 30-year anniversary approaches. Festivals and venues are anxious to have Nothin’ Fancy be part of a 30-year anniversary celebratory tour, and for all the great things the band has done, the best may still be yet to come for the future of the band.
In 2014, 2013, 2012, 2010, 2009, and 2008, the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music in America (SPBGMA) honored Nothin’ Fancy with the prestigious “Entertaining Group of the Year” award. The band has also been nominated for SPBGMA’s Vocal Group of the Year and various band members have been nominated for individual awards as well. In addition, Nothin’ Fancy has hired and/or discovered talented musicians who are still making a mark in the music of their own, and we were blessed to have them while they were among our numbers.
Their strong vocals, powerful instrumentation, and energetic stage presence, along with their friendly down-to-earth charm keeps people coming back for more. Nothin’ Fancy is not just carrying on the tradition of bluegrass music; they are contributing to the creation of a new tradition within the acoustic music genre. The band has weathered much in their 30 years of existence from major personnel changes to surviving through a pandemic, and yet the band of brothers that make up Nothin’ Fancy are stronger now than ever, and we look forward to bringing the energy and excitement to a festival or venue near you!
227 Maple Ave East
Vienna, VA 22180