Nothin' Fancy

Virginia bluegrass band Nothin' Fancy will kick off the 2019-2020 season of the Farm Country Shindig concert series in Reinholds. This photo includes former banjo player Mitchell Davis, far right. Davis has since retired from the group. 

Chris Sexton attended a Seldom Scene show before he took his first breath.

When Sexton was in utero, his parents saw The Seldom Scene perform at the historic Birchmere concert hall in Alexandria, Virginia — not far from where Sexton grew up.

Decades later, Sexton, fiddle player for the bluegrass band Nothin’ Fancy, shared the stage with The Seldom Scene at an edition of the band’s annual music festival. He looked out in the crowd and saw his parents sitting side by side, reminiscing about how much things change.

Embracing evolution is key to Nothin’ Fancy, a band that, much like The Seldom Scene, has had various lineup changes over the years. The current iteration is original member Mike Andes, fiddle player Sexton, brothers Caleb and James Cox on guitar and bass, and banjo player Jacob Flick.

Nothin’ Fancy will kick off the new season of the Farm Country Shindig series at the Reinholds Fire Company Banquet Hall on Saturday.

Nothin’ Fancy formed in 1994 from members of the East Coast Bluegrass Band. Sexton connected with the group through his father, a banjo player who studied with the esteemed player Bill Emerson.

Sexton studied classical violin but kept an interest in bluegrass, performing fiddle tunes at family gatherings. His first bluegrass gig was a studio session with East Coast Bluegrass Band.

“I didn’t realize I could do what I did,” Sexton says. “But when you grow up with bluegrass as a native language to music — all music is a language, all different styles are a dialect to that language — and you grow up knowing that dialect, it was a matter of me just kind of tuning back into that frequency.”

Later, when Nothin’ Fancy’s fiddle player couldn’t make it to a competition, Sexton agreed to fill in. He had double-booked himself though and made it to the festival grounds just in time to perform with the group. They took home a blue ribbon, which the band gave to Sexton as a sign of appreciation for him filling in on such short notice. A few years later, he was a full-time member of the band.

Sexton, who was the youngest member when he joined, is now the second oldest. As its elder members step away from performing, Nothin’ Fancy has welcomed young talent. James Cox is the youngest member at 18; he joined as a 16-year-old.

One thing the band has prided itself on is never expecting a new member to duplicate the sound of his predecessor.

“The idea is we’ve hired these people because of how they play now and that they will evolve into even better players over the years, and they’re allowed that freedom to grow,” Sexton says. “They’re so young, and what’s scary is they’re only going to get better. They’re already so incredible.”

That embracing of change is similar to that of The Seldom Scene, which has had more than 10 different members over its nearly 50-year history.

“We want to be like The Seldom Scene in that no matter who was in the band, the band will still be Nothin’ Fancy,” Sexton says.

The band plans to release a new album, “Undeniable,” this month, but has made the album available for purchase by fans at its live shows. It will be available at the show in Reinholds, too.

Audiences can expect a lively performance with songs conveying a wide spectrum of emotions, from tender moments and sad songs to ditties that might make the audience “laugh out loud,” Sexton says.

In fact, expect a lot of laughter at a Nothin’ Fancy show.

“People would come up to me and say, ‘I love your act,’ ” Sexton says, remembering his early days in the band. “I would say, that’s not an act — that’s just us. That’s just who we are.”

Sexton says all that fun keeps him and Andes young.

“You can almost see it on stage; we act like kids,” Sexton says. “It’s not like we’re trying to act like the other three, our younger bandmates. Sometimes, they act older than we do.”