Archive for September 2015

DONNA ULISSE, “Hard Cry Moon,” Hadley Music Group. 12 tracks

September 28, 2015

Donna Ulisse headed for the bright lights of Nashville in the 1980s, determined to be a country singer.

She quickly found work as a demo singer and was signed by Atlantic Nashville.

In 1991, the label released her first CD, “Trouble at the Door,” which produced two videos and three singles before disappearing.

But Ulisse came home to bluegrass nearly a decade ago, recast as a “bluegrass poet” who performs “bluegrass without borders.”

And she’s been making some great music ever since.

Ulisse is primarily a singer-songwriter.

Her CDs showcase songs she has written.

And “Hard Cry Moon” is no exception.

The only song Ulisse didn’t write was “Whispering Pines,” a 1959 country hit by Johnny Horton.

Two songs honor her grandfathers — “Workin’ On The C&O” is about Lloyd Porter Butler, her mother’s father’s, life on the railroad and “Papa’s Garden” is about the garden of her father’s father, Carmine Ulisse.

The first single, “It Could Have Been The Mandolin” is about falling in love sitting in the back seat of a Cadillac listening to Bill Monroe on the radio.

“The River’s Runnin’ Free” finds the singer stumbling upon a neighbor acting strange beside the river with blood on his clothes. And where’s his wife been lately?

“Black Train” is a hard-driving song about a woman who is determined to move on and leave her current life behind.

The title track is about a long, lonesome night of missing someone.

“We’re Gonna Find A Preacher” is about a girl on her way to marry a Delta boy that no one trusts.

“I’ll Sleep In Peace At Night” is about having a chance every day to make things right so you can sleep peacefully at night.

Good album by a good singer-songwriter.

Can’t find it in stores?


THE COX FAMILY, “Gone Like The Cotton,” Rounder/Warner Nashville/Asylum, 12 tracks

September 14, 2015

The Cox Family from Cotton Valley, Louisiana, burst on the national scene in the early 1990s and quickly became one of the top bluegrass acts in the country.

Their sibling harmonies caught music lovers ears.

Of course, it helped that Alison Krauss, the reigning queen of bluegrass at the time, introduced them to the national scene.

The Cox Family won a Grammy, were soon touring with the rock band Counting Crows and headlining festivals across the country.

They signed with Asylum Records, a Nashville-based Americana label.

And it seemed like they were on their way.

But as quickly as they appeared, the Cox Family seemed to disappear.

In 1998, the family band was recording the album that became “Gone Like The Cotton.”

But changes in management at their label found the Cox Family without a contract.

In 2000, they did record on the soundtrack of “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?,” a mega hit.

But on July 4 that year, Willard and Marie Cox — the parents in the family band — were driving near their home when their car was struck in the rear by a logging truck.

Willard was paralyzed from the waist down and could no longer perform.

Marie recovered but was soon diagnosed with breast cancer, which took her life in 2009.

The siblings — Sidney, Suzanne and Evelyn — “went back to civilian-type life,” although there were occasional performances and some touring.

But people in the record industry never forgot the album that lay unfinished in Nashville.

And finally, in April, the Cox Family returned to the studio to finish it — after 17 years.

It was definitely worth waiting for.

Willard Cox’s vocals from 1998 are featured on “I’ll Get Over You,” a previous hit by Crystal Gayle; the Louvin Brothers‘ “Cash on the Barrelhead” and the Lonesome Pine Fiddlers‘ “Honky Tonk Blues.”

There’s a lot of heartache — “Good Imitation of the Blues,” “Lost Without Your Love,” “Desire,” and “Too Far Gone,” which was written by Sidney and Suzanne Cox.

The title track, also written by Sidney and Suzanne, is a tribute to their parents and grandparents.

Another great album by a great band that’s been out of the spotlight for far too long.

Look for it Oct. 23.

If it’s not in stores, try

FLATT LONESOME, “Runaway Train,” Mountain Home. 12 tracks.

September 8, 2015

Flatt Lonesome is a band on the move.

It won’t celebrate its fifth anniversary until early 2016.

But the band was named emerging artist of the year for 2014 by the International Bluegrass Music Association.

And on Oct. 2, Flatt Lonesome’s third studio album, “Runaway Train,” hits stores and websites.

The band’s roots go back several years to the day the Rev. Dolton Robertson and his wife, Lisa, created a family bluegrass gospel band called Sandy Creek Revival with their children Kelsi, Buddy and Charli.

As they got older, the Robertson children decided to make bluegrass a full-time occupation and formed Flatt Lonesome with friends Dominic Illingworth, Michael Stockton and Paul Harrigill.

Harrigill and Kelsi Robertson married in 2012.

Today, the Robertson siblings share lead vocal duties and create a strong harmony sound.

“Runaway Train” is a mixture of gospel, traditional and progressive bluegrass.

Songs come from the likes of Gram Parsons (“Still Feeling Blue”), Dwight Yoakam (“You’re The One”), David and Don Parmley (“Don’t Come Running”) and Tommy Collins and Merle Haggard (“Mixed Up Mess of A Heart”).

But there’s a lot of original material on here too.

The Harrigills wrote or co-wrote six of the tracks — “You’ll Pay,” “In The Heat of the Fire,” “In The Morning,” “Road to Nottingham,” “Casting All Your Care on Him” and “Letting Go.”

Dolton Robertson contributed “New Lease On Life.”

Like the title track implies, Flatt Lonesome is on a fast track in bluegrass these days.

Can’t find it in stores? Try