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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.
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on March 14, 2011
This sophomore disc by Sierra Hull is a vast improvement over her debut disc. Of course, with the amount of recognition shes getting this time around, a lot of listeners have mistakenly attributed this to be her first outing (which was actually 2008's "Secrets"). That album was six years in the making, recorded since Hull was 13, and the results - while interesting - were definitely not what would make one reach for the repeat button. Things take a turn for the better on "Daybreak", which should cement her position as a tour de force on the country/bluegrass music scene.

Initial impressions are that this is a fine mix between the sounds of Alison Krauss and Union Station, with a lot more mandolin thrown in. Indeed, Hull's voice has all the affectations of a younger Krauss, and has a honey-drenched sweetness about her that is hard not to find endearing. I first discovered Hull through Wildy's World, an online resource that made it a point to source out and review upcoming artists. When they gave "Daybreak" the unique tag of being one of the few 'desert island' discs in existence, one had to take note. And while it most certainly is perhaps one of the best country albums released in 2011, its classic status is debatable as (at the time of writing) it remains a relatively new release.

The interesting thing about this record is that even though its most obviously not a Christian or religious record, there are certain gospel elements here and there that actually work (without being too obvious about it). The instrumentation, vocalization, and some of the lyrics are subtle in what they imply - and this is a good thing as it opens the record up to very different audiences. "Daybreak" is unique in its own right, because its' very talented performer is evidently very hands-on with both the song composition and the background instruments - its this sort of obvious attention to detail that makes the album a winner.

Try to get a physical copy of the CD because the production on this one is especially stellar - its one of those 'reference discs' that you can test your home theater equipment on because the vocals and musical instruments are layered very well, and neither of them overwhelm the other - not to mention the vocal clarity here is a thing of wonder. Just my two cents.
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on March 16, 2011
Very good stuff!

I really enjoyed every cut on the album.
Sierra's musicianship is unquestioned, and it shines endlessly.

But her vocals are improving with maturity, the fine harmonies notwithstanding.

The sky is absolutely the limit for this emerging artist. Who knows how high she can soar at the rate she is going.

While yes, this is bluegrass music, any number of the songs have a very contemporary feel to them and come off more modern than traditional, even though the instruments themselves are all traditional accoustic.

A fine effort, worth many hearings.
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on June 7, 2011
Sierra's debut Secrets (2008) gave the world notice of a new, amazingly talented mandolin picker on the Americana scene. Her musicianship was front & center on almost all the tracks. For this second album Daybreak, recorded 3 years later (and older) at age 18, Sierra has put songwriting and singing to the fore, and has grown tremendously in both categories. (I don't know how her mando playing can possibly get better.) Her voice has matured and employs more feeling and nuance (with just a light touch of vibrato) in her delivery. She also contributed 7 originals out of 12 tracks, a big step from just 3 on Secrets. There are two obligatory uptempo instrumentals which showcase her incredible dexterity and fluid style on mandolin, and one old-time Gospel number with a deep bass harmony by co-producer Barry Bales (of AKUS). The subject matter of the lyrics don't stray outside the traditional bluegrass/country milieu (heartbreak, romance, faith etc.), but the arrangements are more contemporary and modern than Bill Monroe or the Osborne Brothers (though nowhere near Punch Brothers territory). Many listeners draw comparisons to a young Alison Krauss, which isn't too far off the mark, especially considering her musical pedigree and background. But whereas AKUS has steered more into acoustic country/folk (or whatever genre they call it) lately, Hull's roots are still firmly planted in the bluegrass garden. Over time, she may branch out and cross over, but meanwhile her albums represent fine examples of the genre.
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on February 13, 2015
Having heard Sierra in concert, I made haste to buy the CD. There is very little of her prolonged and brilliant soloing here. It's largely songs written and sung by Sierra. Most of her songs are about trying to find true love, and they tend to run together a bit. Her voice is generic country. Well, Grisman's voice isn't all that either, but he knows when to leave it to the experts.
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on June 14, 2011
Sierra sounds so much like a younger less mature version of AK. Sierra's phrasing is great for such a young talent. Her band is first rate. The songs are catchy! Good luck getting "Don't Pick Me Up" out of your head. By the way, Sierra can really pick at that Mandolin. Fun bluegrass. Enjoy!
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on April 7, 2015
There is obvious talent in this young lady, but there is nothing musically here to set her apart from any other respectable country/bluegrass artist. The BIG problem I have is the recording itself. It is atrocious! Why do so many artists allow these mixing and mastering engineers to butcher there material like this. The copious and insane amount of compression used on this recording squashes all the life and dynamic range out of the performances. The vocal is so far back in the mix its almost as if they are trying to hide her. All this makes the listen very boring! What a shame.... As an artist you don't get that many chances to get your stuff out there.
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on April 23, 2011
If you enjoy bluegrass music, this is a "must have" album! Sierra sings in the style of Alison Krauss and if you listen to the instrumental aspect of the songs, you will hear the Union Station instrumentals. I thoroughly enjoy Sierra playing the mandolin! If you enjoy Adam Steffey and the Boxcars, you hear Sierra taking it up a notch! She is so talented! I can't wait to go see her in concert sometime! "Buy" this CD! You won't be sorry!
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on April 21, 2011
Sierra is amazing, both as a vocalist and instrumentalist. Bales did an incredible job as producer, but we all knew he would. I'd have gone a full 5 stars but 35 minutes is a bit short for an album. Yeah, I said the same thing about Flatt and Scruggs in the '60's and still bought everything they did.
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on January 31, 2013
I thought Sierra's intro CD "Secrets" was a very good intro CD, this one has an even better sound. She wrote 7 of 12 tunes this time around, (Stacy Hull co wrote # 9 Tell me tomorrow) #'s 4 " Bombshell" & # 11 "Chasin' Skies the only pure instrumentals.
I don't know that I have a favorite selection, they all do pretty well, but # 5 "Best Buy" had (to me) a more traditional style to it while # 10 "Daybreak"- the title song- had a country flavor to it.

It's worth buying and if she puts out another CD I'll certainly consider it.
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