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DONNA ULISSE —SHOWIN’ MY ROOTS (Hadley Music Group)

 

http://www.donnailissee.com

http://twitter.com/donnaulisse

 http://hadleymusicgroup.com

Bluegrass singer-songwriter, Donna Ulisse (pronounced You-liss-ee)—nominated songwriter of the year by the IBMA the last two years forgoes her own material, other than two co-writes with her husband, Rick Stanley (cousin of Dr. Ralph Stanley) on her latest album. 

 

Their songs “Showin’ My Roots” and “I Always Had A Song I Can Lean On” speak a great deal about how Ulisse decided on music as a career, and how songs have always been a great comfort to her during hard times (as illustrated in the lyrics of the latter). Title cut “Showin’ My Roots” starts off the album at a gallop as she speaks of her great inspirational figures of Loretta (Lynn), Dolly (Parton) and Merle (Haggard); and how their writing lit a fire in her. She doesn’t hide where she is from, musically. Just the opposite is true. As she sings about how her past shines like a beacon on taking loan of songs from the repertoire of the ladies, plus Carter Stanley’s “How Mountain Girls Can Love”, Peggy Stanley Bland – Ralph Stanley’s “If That’s The Way You Feel”, Rodney Crowell’s “One Way Rider”, Hank Locklin’s “Send Me The Pillow You Dream On” and traditional favourite, “Take This Hammer” (on having Sam Bush share lead a better version could not be asked for) and there are others too.  

 

The album is co-produced by Bryan Sutton and Ulisse, and as you would expect has a list of quality pickers assist to give their all. Pickers are Sutton (guitar, banjo), Andy Leftwich (fiddle, mandolin), Rob Ickes (Dobro), Victor Krauss, Byron House (upright bass) and Scott Vestal (banjo), while harmony vocals come from Fayssoux McLean, Rick Stanley, Sam Bush, John Cowan, Larry Cordle, Carl Jackson, Larry Stephenson and Jerry Salley. Usually used in permutations of two, the vocalists like the pickers give stellar support to Ulisse who for her part hits the road running to never look back.

 

As for choice tracks a few of the tunes have already been listed above, but it is the joy and drive that goes with them and grace on the ballads that grabs the listener's attention most.  Her liner notes give detailed accounts of how the songs effected her and were part in her growing up / developing as a performer. Loretta’s “Fist City”, Dolly (though it is Hag’s version she goes for) “In The Good Old Days When Times Were Bad” and Tammy’s (Wynette) hit “You Good Girl’s Gonna Go Bad” and another Loretta hit. Only this it’s one she did not write, “Somebody Somewhere” (Lola Jean Fawbush). Awash in tempered emotion Dobro Ulisse comes through with the strongest performance on the album. A match for Lynn if ever there were one. 

 

While the impact of the players near edges out Ulisse on a couple of songs she wins through with plaudits on “Wait A Little Longer Please Jesus” and a song that was written by her great uncle Eugene Butler (w/Bill Carrigan) who penned “I Hope You Have Learned”, as covered as a duet by bluegrass legend Bill Monroe (Monroe Brothers). Be sure to check out her website for more; her bluegrass / gospel music likewise is excellent.    

 

                                                           Maurice Hope      

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May 2018

1
John Prine
67 pts.
The Tree of Forgiveness
Oh Boy Records
JJC,MB,SP,RM
2
Levi Parham
58 pts.
It's All Good
Continental Records
CRS,JB,TK
3
Jeb Barry and the Pawn Shop Saints
55 pts.
Texas, etc...
DollyRocker
HDB,CVL,DHO
4
Michael McDermott
54 pts.
Out From Under
Continental Song City
JDO,LK,BK
5
Sam Morrow
48 pts.
Concrete and Mud
Forty Below Records
MA,JBO,HB
6
Caleb Caudle
39 pts.
Crushed Coins
Cornelius Chapel Records
 
7
Western Centuries
36 pts.
Songs From The Deluge
Free Dirt Records
MF
8
Carter Sampson
34 pts.
Lucky
Continental Song City
 
9
Charley Crockett
30 pts.
Lonesome as a Shadow
Son of Davy/30 Tigers
 
10
Courtney Marie Andrews
28 pts.
May Your Kindness Remain
Loose Music
JV
11
Ed Romanoff
27 pts.
The Orphan King
Pinerock Records
 
 
Joan Baez
27 pts.
Whistle Down The Wind
Proper Records
HD
 
Pharis and Jason Romero
27 pts.
Sweet Old Religion
Lula Records
SZ,LM
14
Gretchen Peters
24 pts.
Dancing With The Beast
Proper Records
KG
 
Old Crow Medicine Show
24 pts.
Volunteer
Columbia Records
GF
 
Will Stewart
24 pts.
County Seat
Cornelius Chapel Records
 
17
Ben Reel
22 pts.
Land Of Escape
B REEL Records
GC,FC
 
Birds Of Chicago
22 pts.
Love In Wartime
Signature Sounds
 
 
Emily Herring
22 pts.
Gliding
Eight 30 Records
RST,RH
20
Jenny van West
21 pts.
Happiness To Burn
Independent
PJ,FS,JJ
 
Mary Gauthier
21 pts.
Rifles And Rosary Beads
In the Black Records
 
22
Sarah Shook & The Disarmers
20 pts.
Years
Bloodshot Records
FCE
23
David Starr
19 pts.
South And East
Independent
HM
24
Cold Tone Harvest
18 pts.
After You
Independent
 
25
Grant Peeples
17 pts.
Settling Scores vol. 2
Continental

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