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Bright Days Ahead for Hull with 'Daybreak"
on March 9, 2011
Prime Cuts: Daybreak, Best Buy, Wouldn't Matter to Me
It would be criminal to ignore Hull's sophomore effort "Daybreak." This is an indispensable landmark disc as far as the genre of progressive bluegrass is concerned. While many of Hull's peers are entrenched in the latest beat and trends, the 19 year-old Hull has gone for the heart and her roots. As a result she has made bluegrass palatable, rejuvenating and youthful again. Comparisons with Alison Krauss are inevitable as both divalets are from the same recording imprint, the inexorable Rounder Records. Vocally both of them are close cousins with Hull having Krauss' crystalline clarity as well as her controlled modulation that brings a sparkling purity to these songs. Further, both of them have great veneration for tradition rooting the backings of their songs in the rustic riffs of the banjo, fiddles, steel and acoustic guitar. Just like Krauss, Hull has taken John Pennell's (a Krauss favourite writer) "Don't Pick Me Up" as well as contributing 7 songs of her own.
Relative to her debut "Secrets," Hull has grown in her song writing by leaps and bounds. Most evident is her poignant title track "Daybreak." Bathed in a tear stained delivery, this spiritual nod to God in the face of pain is one of the most beautiful ballads written by Hull ever. Though nothing can top the title cut "Daybreak," "Tell Me Tomorrow" a deprecating denial piece with Hull begging her no-good dud not to tell her about their impending break-up until tomorrow. And we all know how she wished tomorrow would not come. Such lyrical subtlety and maturity certainly belies Hull's youthfulness. Hull certainly stretches herself stylistically with the western swing "Best Buy." With nothing to do with the electronics store giant of the same name, "Best Buy" is a kiss off that is devilishly good.
Songwriter Kevin McClung gets two cuts here: both of them are equally superb. Lead single "Easy Come, Easy Go" (not the same song as George Strait's hit from a few years back) is a slow brooding blues-tinged acoustic piece that has a haunting quality to it calling to mind Krauss' "Ghost in this House." While is McClung's other composition is the plaintive "Wouldn't Matter to Me" which excels because of its picturesque lyrics that shows rather than tell the feelings of what heartbreak is. Just like Gospel music is an essential parcel of most bluegrass records, Hull has wisely chosen the lesser known Doyle Lawson and the Quicksilver's "Land of the Living." Backed by a heavenly four part harmony, "Land of the Living" has that old time Gospel feel to it lilted refreshingly by Hull's girlish vocals.
Two instrumentals "Chasing Skies" and "Bombshell" are interspersed in the disc. Both of them showcase Hull's tour de force skills on the mandolin. On the whole, if you are into bluegrass fusion where roots music meet elements of modern country, jazzy innovations and tuneful Western swings, "Daybreak" has it all. Showing more depth, a great portfolio of style and still retaining her angelic vocals, "Daybreak" is such a welcome addition of great music.