Monday, June 13, 2011

CD Album Review- Donna Ulisse- An Easy Climb

The Review-
Lemonade from lemons. Strike that. Really good ice cold frosty strawberry lemonade from lemons.

Let me explain. Way back in 1991, a young singer/songwriter named Donna Ulisse was signed to Atlantic Records which subsequently released three solid singles and two music videos. For whatever reason, the country music Gods didn’t smile down on the release and Ulisse and the label parted ways. For most artists that would have been the end. Lemons. But in a moment of serendipitous purpose, Ulisse returned a whopping eight years later with a homespun collection of bluegrass albums that even better represented the artist.

Over a five year period, Ulisse has released four independent bluegrass albums to widespread critical acclaim. What makes each album consistent to one-another is the inclusion of one magical and powerful song to go along with a collection of solid ones. 2007’s album was the Just Plain Folks Awards Bluegrass Song of the Year,“I'm Calling Heaven Down", off of her 2007 release of When I Look Back. On 2009’s Walk This Mountain Down, the haunting tale of a lost child on “Levi Stone” was one of That Nashville Sound’s top ten songs of the year- in all genres. 2010’s Holy Waters' title track made an incredible combination of faith and Appalachian love.

An Easy Climb continues that trend of including a song for the ages- only this time, we’re treated with two. “Shady Glen” is masterful storytelling at its best. At once fictional history as well as a fantastic ghost story, it tells the tale of a Confederate loyalist female infiltrating the union army before they destroy her town and poisoning them with rabbit stew. It’s modern day ghosts and a story from 150 years ago all wrapped up in a perfect little package. It has all the things you want from a story, a protagonist, a purpose, a cause, action and reaction- all wrapped up perfectly in a wondrous four minute tale. The other phenomenal track is the fantastic autobiographical “Hand Me Down Home.” Every detail of her family cabin that’s been handed down by several generations is lovingly described in personal important minutia. From the background of the family headstones to the wood the porch is made from, it’s a caring tribute to her family that’s a treasure- one she shares with us like a guest room.

For those two reasons alone, this album is worth a purchase.

Track Highlights:
Shady Glen
Hand Me Down Home
Let It Rain
Black Snake

Sounds Like:
Patty Loveless’s Mountain Soul Albums

The Verdict:
Four Stars Out Of Five

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