Donna Ulisse – Breakin’ Easy


Donna Ulisse – Breakin’ Easy


This is a refreshing look back from a modern artist on a musical form that, refreshingly, can still captivate the imagination. Once upon a time, artists like The Carter Family and Roy Acuff were the embryonic “hits” of early 20th century American life and “hillbilly” music. Derived from folk tunes carried to the New World from Europe intermingled with the blues music born in the American South, this tradition has risen rise to what became known country music. Donna Ulisse is obviously a student of the music. She inhabits this mix of bluegrass and classic country with the comfortable assurance and imbues the twelve songs on her release Breakin’ Easy with a warm, inviting spirit that mitigates even the darkest lyric. She’s, likewise, surrounded by a cadre of talented players who are every bit as much students masters of the style and provide rich musical support, including the legendary Doyle Lawson.

Breakin’ Easy opens with a great deal of confidence and energy. “Without Trouble Please” is, at its core, a track about a narrator who’s been through the wringer enough that they are begging off anymore heartache, but rather than put the song out there like some downtrodden musical piece, Ulisse’s take on the subject bubbles with electricity and Donna’s familiar charisma. The album is rather evenly divided, stylistically, between outright bluegrass numbers and more solidly country cuts, but the second song “Back Home Feelin’ Again” is indisputably bluegrass to its core and Ulisse’s musical collaborators make this arrangement sound rustic and scintillating at the same time. The production, handled by bluegrass giant Doyle Lawson, gives each instrument and Ulisse’s voice a bell-like clarity that many will appreciate.

We move into more clearly country territory, spiked with a dash of blues, on the song “Drive This Cold Out of Me”. It’s one of the album’s more notable numbers replete with tasty guitar flourishes that darken its emotional hue without ever dragging listeners down into a mire. Ulisse, in particular, gives a careful yet obviously gorgeous performance where she milks imbues every syllable in the lyric for whatever with the dramatic power it deserves. contains. “Made for Each Other” is some more pure bluegrass, no chaser, and it’s amazing how affecting this joyful tune is when so many believe that happy songs don’t carry nearly as much impact as their sad counterparts. “Baby Back Again” has some lovely steel guitar and another extraordinarily thoughtful vocal from Ulisse that will move all but the most hardened of listeners. “Till I Finally Let Go” is another gem in the classic country mold about heartbreak and the penultimate song, “Where My Mind Can Find Some Rest”, is the album’s final jewel that delves deep into the longings of a human heart and speaks with a voice any adult listener will likely relate to. Everything is here for a first class offering from an award winning songwriter and artist. Musicianship of the highest caliber, top drawer songwriting, and a vocalist working at or near the peak of her considerable powers makes for great listening and even casual fans of this style will find much to admire about Breakin’ Easy.


Montey Zike