Blue Count Records BCR0002CD
Review by Art Menius for Bluegrass Unlimited February 2000
The year 2000 marks the 25th anniversary for Nugget, the veteran Viennese bluegrass band. The group began celebrating early with a strong release called “Well Hidden.” A trio – Katarina Mitteregger on bass and lead vocals, Helmut Mitteregger on lead vocals and the late Ralph Rinzler’s mandolin, and Thierry Massoubre playing guitar and banjo – comprise Nugget, augmented on “Well Hidden” by Blue Highway’s Rob Ickes and the late Randy Howard.
It’s axiomatic that a band which has been around so long and can attract session players of that quality has much going for it. Katarina possesses a winning voice, at times sounding somewhat like Dede Wyland with a slightly Austrian accent, that proves equally adept at contemporary bluegrass, the balladry of Helmut’s lovely “I Cried My Tears Alone,” or the swing of Fred Rose’s “I’m Satisfied With You.” Building their sound around her singing, the members of Nugget amply demonstrate their comfort at picking with the American superstars. Helmut offers three original songs and Thierry a nice instrumental to go along with material chosen from such can’t miss sources as the Stanleys, Guy Clark, Liz Meyer, John Hartford, and Vince Gill. A number of tracks quickly implant themselves in the listener’s mind. Musically, Nugget falls squarely into the contemporary bluegrass category, taking ideas from many of the best modern and progressive ensembles of the past three decades.
Full of excellent material performed well, “Well Hidden” is a strong enough record to make one ask where it falls short of greatness. Foremost, I tend to detect a certain emotional reserve. As wonderful a voice as Katarina has, sometimes it doesn’t sound to me that she yet feels every word personally and informs her vocals with that emotion. Secondly, Nugget breaks no new ground — nothing in Nugget’s musical approach suggests they’re European. To me, that abandons a great potential for innovation within the genre by an extremely talented ensemble.