Sunday, October 22, 2017

Donna Ulisse - Breakin’ Easy

Donna Ulisse - Breakin’ Easy 


Quite simply, the latest This album from Donna Ulisse will pick up your spirits if you’re having a bad day. Breakin’ Easy is Donna’s 10th album, but her first on the Mountain Home label. It hits all the right notes throughout its twelve song duration and brims over with a light, freely moving spirit that wants to entertain and relate to its intended audience. The songs are fortunate to have such a supremely gifted interpreter … but then, having written all but two of the tracks, Uliise is the perfest storyteller.   

Donna is known for vocals that are capable of evocative atmospherics, seamlessly blending with others in harmony, and scaling thrilling emotional heights, often times within the same performance. The album has an inner consistency and logic reflected in how its track listing unfolds and there’s an intimate, but gloriously live, quality to the musical and vocal performance alike that makes listeners feel like this album is happening mere feet away and not a recording of any sort. The spirit of this album will linger with you long after it’s over, surely a credit to Ulisse’s collaboration with the brilliant Doyle Lawson as producer.  
“Without Trouble Please” starts the album off nicely with its mix of bluegrass, blues, and country music sounds percolating through the arrangement. Ulisse sings the lyrics with a tremendous amount of gusto and there isn’t a single note that short changes listeners. Everyone, surely, will be able to relate to this song about having enough of the bad times and just wanting things to get better, but the song manifests an all important belief that things can get better rather than reveling in pain. “Drive This Cold Out of Me” mixes some bluesier strains into the songwriting and it further flavors this strong ballad into something majestic and deeply felt. Ulisse really showcases her singing skills on a number of the album’s slower cuts, but never with the same powerful effect that she does here. The fiddle playing on “A Little Past Lonely” makes sure the song keeps one foot, at least, in the bluegrass world, but this is largely a five star country ballad that anyone familiar with the genre’s golden years and classic material will recognize. Ulisse and Lawson opt for a contemporary production style allowing the song to play as something much more organic and believable, yet with a sense of tradition. 
“We Are Strong”, like the aforementioned number, mixes bluegrass in with country, but the star here is unquestionably another fantastic Ulisse vocals vocal and the album’s best lyric. The attention paid to nailing the words distinguishes it from the other fine material on Breakin’ Easy and really pops with significant specific details. “Whatever Winter Brings” is the last of the album’s slower and personal ballads and it ranks right behind “A Little Past Lonely” as the best examples of the form on this release. Another of the fine cuts coming near the end of Breakin’ Easy is “Where My Mind Can Find Some Rest” and the powerful longing burning in the heart of this stately and often times stunningly beautiful tune will leave no one unaffected. Donna Ulisse’s Breakin’ Easy is a fantastic album from a seasoned pro, further solidifying her position as one of the genre’s pre-eminent talents.  

Charles Hatton

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