by Charlton Wiggins
Labels can often be misleading and especially in the musical landscape of the world we live in today. What is called “country music” today has little resemblance to the country music your parents grew up with. The same can be said of bluegrass music. At one time the word “bluegrass” would conjure up images of banjo’s, fiddles and high lonesome twang and yet the term today envelops instrumentation and vocals that are much further reaching.
Donna Ulisse is one such artist. Though much of her music makes full use of traditional bluegrass tools, the sound of her songs seem to have reached further than simple twang and high lonesomeness. Now with her tenth album, “Breakin’ Easy,” Donna’s songs are easy on the ears and can reach down into your inner soul. You’ll find your foot tapping time and head nodding with the rhythm from the outset. Throughout “Breakin’ Easy” Donna’s country roots shine and meld beautifully with the bluegrass instrumentation.
“Without Trouble Please” leads off the album and plays close to home with its mountain bluegrass sound while “Back Home Feelin’ Again” feels like sitting on a front porch of an evening with an autumn breeze. Throw in “Made For Each Other” and you can image a family all sitting around that porch making beautiful mountain music.
By contrast “Drive This Cold Out Of Me” has a sound reminiscent of Suzy Bogguss. Add to that “Til I Fin’lly Let Go” and the cover of the Dottie West and Will West penned “Here Comes My Baby Back Again” and Donna’s traditional country influence is easily and wonderfully expressed.
A trio of tunes call on a more traditional bluegrass influence. “We Are Strong,” “I’m In A Hurry To Go Nowhere,” and “We’ve Got The Love Thing Figured Out” all rely heavily on banjo, mandolin and fiddle.
With the exception of the aforementioned Dottie West tune and “I’m In A Hurry To Go Nowhere” all the songs on “Breakin’ Easy” were written or co-written by Donna. The quality of the songwriting proves the Virginia native is worthy of the accolades she has received, including the 2018 Songwriter of the Year from the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music Association (SPBGMA) and the 2016 International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) Songwriter of the Year.
Donna Ulisse is a special talent, both with song writing and performing and if you are not familiar with her you should be. “Breakin’ Easy” is the perfect album to introduce you.