CD Review Sierra Hull – Daybreak (2011)
by Christian Lamitschka for Country Music News International Magazine & Radio Show
5. Best Buy
11. Chasin’ Skies
Label – Rounder
UPC – 011661065826
Release Date – 8 March 2011
Time – 36:42
4 STARS Wwww
A delicious follow up to a promising debut
In a year of excellent bluegrass releases, DAYBREAK the sophomore album for 19 year old prodigy Sierra Hull adds to that growing list. Hailing from a small rural community in Byrdstown, Tennessee her musical talents were quickly noticed at local contests in her early teens. With her waiflike soprano vocal, comparisons can quickly be drawn to Alison Krauss, herself a phenomenon at such a tender age. It is therefore fitting that she mentored Hull which led to a record deal with Rounder Records in 2002.
Her debut SECRETS, recorded when she was just 15 was released in 2008 and showed enormous potential. Thankfully her label has allowed her to develop and blossom at her own pace. When the opportunity arose, when offered a prestigious Presidential scholarship, she left her family home and moved to Boston to study at The Berklee College of Music.
Already the recipient of five IBMA nominations whilst balancing a busy lifestyle and a recording career, Sierra is reaching new heights as she attains early adulthood. Union Station bassist Barry Bales produces this project and pushed her both vocally and instrumentally. On this 12 track recording Hull has penned 7 of the songs, dipping in and out of traditional and the more progressive elements of bluegrass. Subjects largely focus on relationships where love has prevailed or gone astray, both handled with such maturity.
For the restful and haunting opener ‘Easy Come, Easy Go’ she turned to Kevin McClung who sent her a demo, he wrote her previous title cut ‘Secrets’. It perfectly reflects where she resides with her life with its opening lines: Ghost in my closet and under my bed / things that a child lets go on in her head / but I’m not a child anymore.
‘Don’t Pick Me Up’ (John Pennell) despite being a number that begs not be cast aside but sadly rejected has a joyful 1950’s up-tempo feel and typifies the albums high quality musicianship. The heartache continues on ‘All Because of You’ as Hulls crystal clear vocal meshes with the dynamic interplay between Stuart Duncan (fiddle), Randy Kohrs (Dobro) and her own mandolin. On instrumental ‘Bombshell’ she showcases her masterful skills of the instrument.
‘Best Buy’ moves into Western swing territory and brings forth smiles on this fun kiss-off track where hollow words are disbelieved as she sings: cause you can take your stuff / I’ve had enough / I’ll even hold the door!
‘I’ll Always Be Waiting For You’ written by Shawn Lane & Gerald Ellenburg is both comforting and has a delightful charm, which surely gladdens the heart. Lane (low baritone) perfectly complements Hull’s soprano on this tender track.
The gospel flavoured ‘The Land of Living’ (Mary Ann Ballard) is much more than a passing shadow; it’s a wonderful piece which dazzles in beauty. It has religious overtones but lyrically it’s subtle and can be embraced by the many not the few.
The pace quickens on ‘What Do You Say?’, it begs the question to a lover to either commit or walk away. Co-written with her father Stacy, ‘Tell Me Tomorrow’ is a mid-tempo ballad where love hangs by a thread, will it be foolish to believe everything will work out fine by morn’?
I don’t expect to hear a song that surpasses the stunning beauty of acoustic-pop and prayer-like title cut ‘Daybreak ‘. The song evolved from the opening lines to the first verse, words she had written in her bible: Take Me To A Place / Where Love Is All I Feel When I See Your Face / All I Need To Do Is Close My Eyes And Open My Heart/ And Let You Move. The idea for the chorus came after glimpsing at an old set list in her mandolin case, the last word was “Daybreak” which referred to Ralph Stanley’s ‘Daybreak In Dixie’.
With its sparse arrangement it conveys amazing lightness, and the sweet vulnerability fills ever note. It exquisitely captures the feeling when faced with life’s day by day woes, watching the sunrise, aware its time to face another day.
The gentle heart-breaker ‘Wouldn’t Matter to Me’ is another from the pen of McClung. Hulls breathless vocal is like chiffon wafting in a high-mountain summer breeze. Beg, borrow, steal, on second thoughts, don’t, just hit on the plastic as DAYBREAK is simply magic.