The video "It Could Have Been The Mandolin" features cameo appearance from Sammy Shelor, Joe Mullins, Larry Stepehenson, David Adkins, Edgar Loudermilk, Roland White, Russell Moore, Larry Cordle, Audie Blaylock and more.
After a brief detour with 2013’s Showin’ My Roots, which consisted mainly of classic country covers that had influenced her, the four-time IBMA songwriter of the year nominee (with songs recorded by Del McCoury, Doyle Lawson, Claire Lynch and more) is back with another superb collection of originals.
Ulisse is a writer on 11 of the 12 songs, penning four on her own. Fans will recognize regular co-writers Marc Rossi, with four songs here; Rick Stanley, her husband and touring band member (and cousin of Carter and Ralph); and the award-winning Jerry Salley.
The first single, “It Could Have Been The Mandolin,” recalls a blissful evening in a blossoming relationship. Young love is also at the forefront of “We’re Gonna Find A Preacher,” while the feisty “Ain’t That A Pity” depicts the downside of love.Family stories have always been a key part of Ulisse’s music, and here she offers two loving tributes. “Workin’ On The C & O” is a poor man’s railroad tale about her maternal grandfather, who began his career as a “gandy dancer.” “Papa’s Garden” honors her grandfather on her dad’s side, an Italian immigrant who found great joy in growing things. She lovingly dedicates the whole album to these two grandparents who made such an impression on her.
In the spine-tingling “The River’s Runnin’ Free,” the singer stumbles upon an acquaintance in the act of some eerily suspicious behavior by the water, demands: “Are you here to lay some kind of trouble in the ground, or are you here digging trouble up?” At the other end of the emotional spectrum is “Just As Long As We’re Together,” a love-conquers-all promise. And the gorgeously mournful title track is the type of acoustic traditional country ballad that no one can deliver like Ulisse.
The sole cover is the country classic “Whispering Pines,” a song Ulisse has long loved, and one originally made famous by Johnny Horton, her husband’s all-time favorite male vocalist. Ulisse sings the chestnut like one of her own, her voice tenderly pleading for the return of her baby.
The album closes with the lullaby-like “I’ll Sleep In Peace At Night” which includes Fayssoux McLean on harmony, one of Ulisse‘s vocal idols from the time she first heard her singing harmony on the early Emmylou Harris records.
Ulisse handed the production reins to six-time IBMA guitarist of the year Bryan Sutton (Hot Rize, Ricky Skaggs, Harry Connick Jr.), who also was at the board for Showin’ My Roots. As on previous albums, Ulisse is surrounded by some of the top pickers in bluegrass — which is to say some of the best musicians on the planet: Casey Campbell, a member of Sutton’s touring band, on mandolin; Dennis Crouch (June Carter Cash, Emmylou Harris, Diana Krall, Steve Earle) on upright bass. Stuart Duncan (Alison Krauss; James Taylor, the Goat Rodeo Sessions album with Yo-Yo Ma, Chris Thile and Edgar Meyer) on fiddle. Scott Vestal (Dolly Parton, Doyle Lawson, Sam Bush) on banjo. Brent Truitt of the SteelDrivers engineered and mixed.
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