Who Needs Newgrass When There’s Great Bluegrass?

March 27, 2011

Music

In December 2009, I purchased a very nice mandolin for my wife.  I did this because my wife Cindy is a fabulous musician.  I had heard her play the ukulele earlier in the year.    She played wonderfully – especially since the ukulele was a new instrument for her.  So to assist her with the motivation needed to conquer yet another new instrument (i.e., the mandolin), I figured that I’d buy her an album of good mandolin music.  Several people recommended Sierra Hull’s premiere album (entitled Secrets).  I was blown away by the musicianship and the poised maturity that the then 16-year old Hull exhibited on the album.

So when I heard that she had released a sophomore album (entitled Daybreak), I just had to download the album.  And like the first album, this one is magnificent.  From the very first track, Hull distinguishes herself as an amazing mandolin player.  More importantly, she has really extended her vocal capabilities.  She is no longer the little child with a nice voice.  She is a woman with a wonderful voice.

And her mandolin prowess has grown.  She handles instrumental tunes  (like “Bombshell” and “Chasin’ Skies”) with an easy grace.  You can really sense her skill (and her love of the instrument) in both of these works.  At the same time, she seems equally comfortable blending classic bluegrass themes (like faith and family) into modern musical harmonies.

My favorite song is “The Land of the Living.” This song expresses a simple and well-worn faith that is honest – and not trivialized.  I would love to hear her sing and play an entire album devoted to her faith.  But in many ways, the simple and understated faith motifs throughout this album may be even more catching for people who did not grow up in the church community.

Finally, this album makes no apologies for its traditional bluegrass appeal.  She doesn’t hide the instruments.  She doesn’t hide the messages.  But she doesn’t bludgeon the listeners with them either.  She simply sings and plays about what she has seen and heard.  This is a remarkable album from a very remarkable young woman.

I can’t wait for her next album.  But until then, I think this one is going to get quite a bit of play around my house.

-Roo

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