Posted tagged ‘donna ulisse’

DONNA ULISSE, “Breakin’ Easy,” Mountain Home. 12 tracks

September 5, 2017

Back in the 1980s, Donna Ulisse, a Hampton, Virginia., native headed for Music City, 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.

A decade ago, Ulisse came home to bluegrass, recast as a “bluegrass poet” who performed “bluegrass without borders.”

And bluegrass welcomed her back with open arms.

Last year, Ulisse was named songwriter of the year by the International Bluegrass Music Association.

And on Sept. 22, her first album on the Mountain Home label, “Breakin’ Easy,” will be released.

Ulisse wrote or co-wrote 10 of the 12 tracks.

The other two are Dottie West’s “Here Comes My Baby Back Again,” a country classic from 1964, and Kimberly Fox and Brandon Rickman‘s “I’m In A Hurry To Go Nowhere.”

The album blends bluegrass — both traditional and contemporary — with country and gospel.

There’s loneliness and despair coupled with hope and joy.

“Without Trouble Please” is a plea for a good day and a chance to catch her breath.

“Back Home Feelin’ Again” is nostalgia for childhood.

“Drive This Cold Out of Me” finds a woman feeling old as she mourns a lover who is gone.

“A Little Past Lonely” and “Til I Finally Let Go” are about relationships that have grown cold.

“Made For Each Other,” “We Are Strong” and “We’ve Got This Love Thing Figured Out” are all about couples that have made their relationship work.

“Whatever Winter Brings” is about growing old.

And “Where My Mind Can Find Some Rest” is about hope and second chances.

Good album by a good singer-songwriter.

You can pre-order now at



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.

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DONNA ULISSE, “Showin’ My Roots,” Hadley Music Group. 13 tracks.

October 7, 2013

Donna Ulisse is primarily a bluegrass singer-songwriter. And she’s produced several outstanding albums of her own material.

But “Showin’ My Roots,” primarily an album of cover songs, may just be her best album yet.

It’s not just covers. It’s covers of songs by artists who have inspired her through the years.

And that makes it a concept album.

Ulisse and her husband, Rick Stanley, a cousin of Carter and Ralph Stanley, wrote the opening and closing songs, which serve as book-ends to the collection.

The title song, which opens the album, mentions several of the artists who inspired her. The closing track, “I’ve Always Had A Song I Could Lean On,” tells how music has influenced her life.

“Take This Hammer,” a traditional song sung as a duet with Sam Bush, is a song Ulisse sang as a 3-year-old at a family barbecue.

The Loretta Lynn classic, “Somebody Somewhere (Don’t Know What He’s Missing Tonight)” is a song she sang early in her career.

Lynn was the first artist Ulisse saw perform live. And her “Fist City” is a tribute to that memory.

Other songs include a couple of Stanley Brothers songs — “How Mountain Girls Can Love” and “If That’s The Way You Feel,”; Rodney Crowell’s “One Way Rider”; Dolly Parton’s “In The Good Old Days When Times Were Bad”; Tammy Wynette’s “Your Good Girl’s Gonna Go Bad”; Hank Locklin’s “Send Me The Pillow You Dream On”; “I Hope You Have Learned,” a Bill Monroe song co-written by her uncle, Gene Butler; and the gospel classic, “Wait A Little Longer Please Jesus,” a song her father used to sing.

The band is an all-star lineup featuring Scott Vestal, Rob Ickes, Andy Leftwich, Viktor Krauss and Byron House. Harmony singers include John Cowan, Carl Jackson, Larry Cordle, Larry Stephenson, Frank Solivan, Jerry Salley and Rick Stanley.Great album.

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DONNA ULISSE, “All The Way To Bethlehem,” Hadley Music Group. 11 tracks.

October 29, 2012

Concept albums, which were somewhat common in country music in the 1960s and 1970s, have never really caught on in bluegrass.

But Donna Ulisse has created what she calls a “dramatic story told in song” with “All The Way To Bethlehem.”

It’s a musical journey of all the elements in the story of the first Christmas, leading to the birth of Jesus.

There’s “I See The Light of the World,” which sets the stage; “Elisabeth,” the cousin of Mary and the mother of John the Baptist; “He’s Not Mine,” the story of Joseph; “You Will Be Delivered,” the angel’s message to Mary; the title cut, a duet with her husband, Rick Stanley, about the journey to Bethlehem; “You Cannot Stay Here,” the innkeeper says he has no room

“Let The World Wait A Little While,” Mary wants time alone with her baby; “He Is Here,” the angels message to the shepherds; “I’m Gonna Shine,” the star’s song; “We’re Coming To Worship Him,” the journey of the Magi; and “Morning in Bethlehem,” when the elements all come together.

Ulisse wrote or co-wrote all 11 songs in the production, which she and her band will be performing at concerts during the Christmas season.

The musical lineup includes Keith Sewell, Andy Leftwich, Victor Krauss, Rob Ickes, Byron House, John Mock, Wendy Buckner Sewell, Ana Sewell and Stanley.

Bluegrass purists may find fault with electric guitars, a concertina and a penny whistle that appear on a couple of tracks. But, for the most part, it’s an acoustic album

And it’s a good way to get in the spirit of Christmas early.

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DONNA ULISSE, “An Easy Climb,” Hadley Music Group. 13 tracks.

July 5, 2011

Donna Ulisse (you-liss-ee) is a singer-songwriter.

That designation used to mean pop music.

But as bluegrass has expanded its horizons in the 21st century, it’s made room for bluegrass singer-songwriters like Ulisse.

The Hampton, Va., native wrote all 13 tracks on this her fourth album.

Sometimes, that suggests a vanity project.

But this is simply good bluegrass.

“An Easy Climb” is something Ulisse’s music career hasn’t had.

She headed for Music City in the 1980s, 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.

Ulisse appeared on “Hee Haw,” “Nashville Now” and other country music shows.

And then, she disappeared.

In 2007, Ulisse returned to recording, recast as a “bluegrass poet” who performed “bluegrass without borders.”

She’s married to Rick Stanley, a cousin of Ralph and Carter.

And that helped open a few doors for her.

But mostly, it’s her voice and songs that have taken Ulisse to the top of bluegrass charts and to festivals as far away as the Russian Bluegrass Festival in Vologda.

“Shady Glen” is a great Civil War story song about Yankee soldiers who destroy a town, kill the men and rape the women — and a woman who gets her revenge.

“Black Snake” is an uptempo song about moonshine runners and revenue agents.

“Where The Cold Wind Blows” is about military families separated in war time.

“Flat Broke in Arkansas” tells about a woman who left her husband and is flat broke but happy.

And “Hand Me Down Home” finds a new generation moving into the family homeplace.

Good album by a good singer-songwriter.

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DONNA ULISSE, “Holy Waters,” Hadley Music Group. 13 tracks.

May 3, 2010

Donna Ulisse, pronounced you-liss-ee, left her home in Hampton, Va., in the 1980s and headed for Music City with dreams of being a country music queen.

She soon 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.

In 2007, Ulisse resurfaced as a “bluegrass poet” with the critically acclaimed “When I Look Back” album. She wrote or co-wrote all 14 tracks.

Then came “Walk This Mountain Down” in 2009.

Now, she’s back with “Holy Waters,” a collection of gospel songs. Ulisse wrote or co-wrote 12 of the 13 tracks.
The 13th is Carter Stanley’s “Who Will Sing For Me.”

Ulisse’s husband, Rick Stanley, is a cousin of Ralph and Carter Stanley.

Keith Sewell plays her father-in-law’s 1935 D-28 Herringbone Martin guitar, which Carter Stanley is said to have played once at a family gathering, on the song.

Other musicians featured on the album include Andy Leftwich, Scott Vestal, Byron House and Rob Ickes.

“Caney Creek  to Canaan Land” is an uptempo song with the message,  “You don’t have to go to Israel to find Jesus.”

“This Crazy Road” find the singer getting out  in nature to refresh her soul.

“Who You Need To Know” says getting to heaven is all about who you know.

A strong album by an artist who deserves more attention from bluegrass fans than she’s been getting.

Can’t find it in stores? Try, CDBaby, iTunes, County Sales or Music Shed.