Archive for the ‘Sierra Hull’ Tag

Mac Wiseman & Various Artists- I Sang the Song review   2 comments

Mac Wiseman

Mac Wiseman I Sang The Song Mountain Fever Records

With all due respect to the folks who have released excellent bluegrass and country albums this year, and those who will undoubtedly do so in the coming months, we have our 2017 Americana/Roots album of the year.

An incredible undertaking by Peter Cooper and Thomm Jutz, the most important element of the thirteen songs comprising I Sang the Song: Life of The Voice With A Heart is the source material, Mac Wiseman himself. Nearing 92, Wiseman was born in 1925 and recalls a time few of us can picture outside history books and re-runs of The Waltons. Wiseman is a man who knew A. P. Carter and has now had Sierra Hull share a song with him. Think about that for a half-a-moment.

“It ain’t bragging if you’ve done it,” asserts John Prine gently within the title track, revealing for the unaware that Wiseman performed alongside the acknowledged masters of 20th century roots music. A member of both The Foggy Mountain Boys and The Blue Grass Boys, as well as a charting, featured performer in his own right, Wiseman is a founder of the Country Music Association, and inductee to both the International Bluegrass Music Association Hall of Fame and the Country Hall of Fame.  A label executive and producer—and one of the finest bluegrass gentlemen I’ve had the pleasure of encountering, however briefly— Wiseman was always far more than “just another young hillbilly.”

The majority of these songs are obviously bluegrass, a few clearly country, and others find that sweet, magical spot between the two. Cooper and Jutz had the inspiration and wisdom to listen to and converse with Wiseman, finding in his stories threads to embroider  the ten new songs created together to communicate a compelling narrative of anecdote.

Naturally, the singing is incredible throughout. Recent IBMA Male Vocalist of the Year Shawn Camp is given a pair of songs, as is Milan Miller who appears with Buddy Melton (another IBMA Male Vocalist of the Year) and Andrea Zonn. Junior Sisk, yet a third IBMA vocalist recipient, also has two lead appearances, “Crimora Church of the Brethren,” on which he is joined by Ronnie Bowman (yes, another IBMA Male Vocalist of the Year) and “The Wheat Crop”—with the ladies of The Isaacs—which laments the lot of the poor farmer. These performances are expectedly outstanding, and the history-rich lyrics and eternal melodies provide galvanizing framework for blessed voices.

Justin Moses (fiddle, banjo, and Dobro) and Hull (mandolin) work with Jutz (guitar) and Mark Fain (bass) to serve as the house band, uniting to create a consistent instrumental environment. Cooper and Jutz harmonize on several tracks, providing further uniformity.

Within a song, Wiseman (“The Guitar,” via Moses and Hull) takes us from receiving his first Sears Roebuck, ragtop box, to the eventual day he stopped “playing in G and singing in C” to nail “There’s An Empty Cot in the Bunkhouse  Tonight” for an audience of one. As the album unfolds, his experiences through to the hardships of the depression (“Barefoot ‘Til After the Frost”, “Three Cows and Two Horses”) are revealed in a natural, homespun manner capturing the vernacular of his rural upbringing down to cold “feet just as red as a gobbler’s snout.” In the universal and frustrating balance poverty, even when things improve for Wiseman’s family (“Manganese Mine,”) another discovers only hardship and tragedy.

“Simple Math,” one of two sang by Americana icon Jim Lauderdale, details further experiences from Wiseman’s youth following him into early gigs as a professional musician including his big break playing Molly O’Day sessions. Lauderdale, one of the most prolific and versatile vocalists working today, adroitly relates the simple truths of Wiseman’s observations.

As compelling as the connections to Wiseman’s life are across the album, the fact that each song stands independent released from context is indicative of their significance. The bluegrass chart hit “Going Back to Bristol,” sung by Camp, radiates universal appeal, whether you’ve ever been near the border community, cut a side with Flatt & Scruggs, been near a Studebaker, or not.

Alison Krauss joins Wiseman on the closing benediction “‘Tis Sweet to Be Remembered,” one of his earliest successes, for a performance joining generations in hopeful love of music and life. Wiseman drops in on a few of these numbers, providing a foundation for the lyrics and music, but also allowing those with the greatest of admiration to communicate his story through the voices of generations influenced by “The Voice With A Heart.”

For thirty-eight minutes, timeless memories are communicated. Through time, these performances will be shared to become part of our collective memory.

Visit to order.

Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. @FervorCoulee



Lonesome Road Review’s Top 10 Bluegrass Albums of 2011   Leave a comment

A bit late but understandable being how busy editor Aaron Keith Harris is, today brings the release of the Lonesome Road Review’s top 10 bluegrass albums of the past year. I’m pleased to see that Aaron and my LRR colleague Larry Stephens agreed with me in several places, quite likely more than I expected, and I’ve written positively about each of the albums here or elsewhere with perhaps the exception of the #1 album, another that I really enjoyed and purchased both digitally and on vinyl. My only complaint about the Old Memories album is the rather spartan packaging- no gatefold, no liner notes, and the vinyl itself is not as hefty as other recently produced album offerings; still, a terrific album of music.

Each of my top 5 albums made the list and I hope that these placements help some of you make some purchasing decisions. None of the artists who made the list, with the exception of AKUS, is living the high life; most are folks with extensive experience in the bluegrass world, having spent years on the road and are well deserving of any recognition they receive. Of course, I’m absolutely thrilled to see three particular names on the Lonesome Road Review list: Dale Ann Bradley, John Reischman & the Jaybirds, and James Reams & the Barnstormers. See my Top 10 here and visit the LRR to see the complete 2011 Top 10:

As always, thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald


Sierra Hull- Daybreak   Leave a comment

My review of Sierra Hull’s second album of bluegrass for the Rounder label has been posted at LRR. I’ve been listening to the album for seven or eight weeks and it has stood up to innumerable listens in various situations. It is a gooder. Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee- feel free to leave a comment if you have an opinion on something I’ve written. Donald

Sierra Hull
Rounder Records
4 stars (out of 5)

By Donald Teplyske

The bluegrass world recognizes the centennial of Bill Monroe’s birth in 2011. While many have paid tribute to the master by both duplicating his sound and taking his music in new directions, few have accomplished so much at a tender age as Sierra Hull.

Bluegrass is a music of youthful protégés, and few have impressed to the degree that Sierra Hull has since her Rounder debut appeared three years ago: confidently maturing, Sierra Hull is poised to provide artistic leadership for many more.

Daybreak is a powerful bluegrass recording. It will not appeal to all, and it will likely receive criticism from some for being too smooth, too Krauss-like in its approach to acoustic music, and darn it, too girly.

From its opening notes, the album certainly sounds similar to the distinctive qualities most closely associated to the recordings of Alison Krauss & Union Station. The mentorship—from near and far—that Hull has apparently received from the Union Station crew no doubt contributes to this influence.

Barry Bales steps into the producer position on this album, a post Ron Block previously held. Block adds guitar to a couple tracks while Dan Tyminski sings on a couple others. With Bales maintaining the bottom end on most of the songs, it should surprise no one that there are similarities to Hull’s and Krauss’s music. Heck, there is even a John Pennell song (but no Robert Lee Castleman) included!

Still, Hull most obviously has developed an individual musical personality, and this comes through on almost every cut. Hull wrote or co-wrote seven of the album’s twelve cuts, and her songs are as memorable and enjoyable as those of songwriters many years her senior.  “All Because of You,” a fine Hull original, has a lovely folk-tinged vocal performance, while “Bombshell” is a sweet and playful little instrumental that features the tight quartet of Hull and Bales joined by Bryan Sutton and Stuart Duncan.

The album reveals Hull’s flexibility and dexterity. “The Land of the Living” is a gorgeous bluegrass/country gospel performance, and “What Do You Say” has the effervescent spirit that so much of the finest bluegrass of the past decade has possessed. “Best Buy” explores swing while the title cut reveals Hull’s modern pop side.

The album and artist benefit from the support received by the bluegrass heavy-hitters mentioned, as well as the like of Shawn Lane, Ronnie Bowman, and Randy Kohrs. Hull’s Highway 111 band is also represented, performing both as a unit and with additional musicians. It seems appropriate that they close the album together—with absolutely no noticeable drop-off in performance—on Kevin McClung’s “Wouldn’t Matter to Me.”

Daybreak is an admirable collection of bluegrass and acoustic music, standing with the very best the genre has to offer. As does the sunrise, Daybreak also provides promise for what may follow.