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Gaining Wisdom

12 customer reviews

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Audio CD, February 27, 2007
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

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As a singer, Donna Hughes's languid, conversational phrasing barely hints at the depth and range of her songwriting. That songwriting has attracted the stellar support of producer-guitarist Tony Rice, harmony vocalists such as Alison Krauss, Mary Chapin Carpenter, and Rhonda Vincent, and some of the top musicians in bluegrass. While uptempo breakdowns such as "Sad Old Train," "Too Many," and "Bottom of a Glass" (with Sam Bush on flying-fingers mandolin) fit comfortably within bluegrass tradition, much of the rest goes well beyond. On "Father Time" and "Not Anymore," she shows her mastery of the piano-based introspective ballad, while the harmonies and cello of "Find Me Out on a Mountain Top" could be described as chamber-grass. There's also a cover of Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time" that splits the difference, beginning as midtempo melancholy but then picking up the tempo for a bluegrass transformation. Hughes is still a stronger writer than a singer, but the investment she makes in her own material pays emotional dividends. --Don McLeese

1. One More Time
2. What I'm Looking For
3. Father Time
4. Time After Time
5. Scattered To The Wind
6. Not Anymore
7. Sad Old Train
8. Find Me Out On A Mountain Top
9. Bottom Of A Glass
10. Letters
11. Too Many
12. Hold On
13. Where Are You Darlin'?
14. Talking To The Wind

Product Details

  • Audio CD (February 27, 2007)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Rounder Records
  • ASIN: B000MM1FBE
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #264,031 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Joseph Ross on March 11, 2007
Format: Audio CD
Playing Time - 43:36 -- Heralded as one of the best new singer-songwriters in bluegrass, Donna Hughes' debut on the reputable Rounder Records label is a significant career milestone for the creative and talented young woman from central North Carolina. When I first heard her independently released albums years ago, I knew she was inspired, motivated, and headed for great success. She just needed the right amount of luck. Enter guitarist Tony Rice who also heard "something that was down to earth, with a definitive southern flavor to it....that implied a broader, more adventurous approach." This album, produced by Rice, includes four new arrangements of original songs that Hughes previously released on her own "Same Old Me" project. Eight additional originals are on this "Gaining Wisdom" album, along with two covers ("Time After Time" and "Find Me Out On A Mountain Top").

As I've said before, Donna's songs have potential to become contemporary bluegrass, acoustic country or folk hits. Classically trained on piano, Hughes also has a strong affinity for bluegrass music. She has performed with regional bands, Wildwood and Different Directions. Her adorned and relaxed presentation is incorporated with the modern instrumental consciousness of such stellar acoustic technicians as Tony Rice, Tim Stafford, Rob Ickes, Mike Bub, Sam Bush, Ron Stewart, Wyatt Rice, Bryn Davies, Rickie Simpkins, Wayne Benson, Scott Vestal, Kati Penn, and Obil Perez. To accompany her dreamy singing, we hear harmonies from Carl Jackson, Alecia Nugent, Sonya Isaacs, Mary Chapin Carpenter, John Carroll, Kati Penn, Rhonda Vincent, and Lona Heins. This is a very impressive cast that infuses her music with a great deal of enchantment.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By William W. Smith on March 30, 2007
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I really like Donna Hughes. She is a wonderful writer and has a unique voice that blends perfectly with a bluegrass backing.

Her previous CD, Same Old Me, is one of my all-time favorite CDs. In addition to Donna's well-crafted songs and great vocal delivery, there is an edgy banjo-laced arrangement that permeates every cut.

Tony Rice produced this new CD with his usual smooth Americana-friendly backup that somehow loses the raw bluegrassy flavor that made the earlier CD so refreshing. You can make up your own mind about which you might like better by reviewing cuts here on Amazon that appear on both CDs. The songs in common are: Scattered To The Wind, Where Are You Darlin'?, and Hold On. I know some people will prefer the smoother guitar-oriented versions that feature Tony Rice's smooth and fluid backing. I happen to prefer the more raucous versions with the banjo and mandolin a bit too far forward. Anyway, it's great to hear the differences and the choices that were made. Both CDs are great.

Some of the highlights of this new CD for me are "Bottom of the Glass" and "Not Any More." I often pay less attention to lyrics than other people, but Donna Hughes is such a skillful crafter of lyrics that I pay close attention to the words every time I listen to these songs.

I encourage you to listen and buy this CD, but I also strongly urge you to check out the 20-cut earlier CD "Same Old Me." It's a fascinating and compelling CD as much for its production failings as for its excellent music.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Johnno on March 22, 2007
Format: Audio CD
Donna Hughes has already had 2 tunes covered by established acts. The stand out feature of this new CD is the writing, as has already been noted by the heavyweight artists who have taken her under their wing. Sometimes the subject matter is sentimental (nothing wrong with that), but neither the writing or the delivery is ever maudlin, and the take on the situation is from an original angle.

The music mostly has deep bluegrass roots, but I am a little reluctant to put it completely in that box. Her piano based tunes step outside that classification, and probably she will end up busting out of the bigger Country box as well.

The singing is laid back and the music is really well played as one would expect from the calibre of musicians that seem to have fallen over each other to play it.

The CD is called Gaining Wisdom, and that is what Donna is about here. She has not reached the peak of her powers yet, and we will hear better things from her in years to come.

In the meantime she will never have to be embarrassed about this first major release.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
As a lifelong musician, I'm a sucker for musical pyrotechnics, and the bluegrass genre has more than it's share of real players. In fact, several of my favorites appear here (Rob Ickes, Tony Rice, etc.)

What seems to lack so often though, is great songwriting. I'm talking about that magic, subtle ballet between lyric and melody, the kind that evokes imagery and emotion. It's a lot harder to pull off than it might seem.

As a songwriter, Donna's got it - in spades. Not a "clunker" in the bunch, with a couple in particular (Bottom of a Glass, Where Are You Darlin') with the makings of modern classics. Personal favorites - Scattered to the Wind, Letters, Not Anymore, Hold On. Apparently I'm not the only one who recognizes her talents; her songs having been recorded by Alison Krauss, Mary Chapin Carpenter, and more.

As a vocalist, Donna's carries her material with a sensitive, convincing delivery. No vocal calisthenics here, just honest and open singing.

Tony Rice's clean production style suits both the songs and the singer. Again, something that's not so easy to pull off, with the balance of the chops, tonalities, and subtleties eloquently delivered - First Class.

I can't seem to stop playing this CD!
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