With Christmas quickly approaching, many artists have begun releasing albums full of traditional Christmas tunes. In the bluegrass world, that often consists of such classics as Christmas Time’s a Comin’ or Beautiful Star of Bethlehem, in addition to popular modern songs like White Christmas.
Donna Ulisse has recently joined the crowd of artists who have a Christmas album to their name, but hers has a slight twist. Each of the eleven tracks on All the Way to Bethlehem is an original song written or cowritten by Ulisse, and the album as a whole tells the Christmas story in chronological order as found in the Bible.
The album begins with I See the Light of the World, a cheerful, uplifting song drawn from the Gospel of John in which Jesus says that He is the “light of the world” and those that follow Him “shall not walk in darkness.” The rest of the songs share pieces of the Biblical Christmas story from various points of view. You Will Be Delivered finds the angel speaking, telling Mary that she will be the mother of the Savior. This song would sound at home on most traditional Christmas albums, with nice mandolin and violin contributed by Andy Leftwich. Elisabeth is an upbeat bluegrass tune with country flair told from Mary’s point of view, and shares the story of how Mary’s barren cousin Elisabeth also miraculously became a mother.
One of the album’s standout tracks is He’s Not Mine. Ulisse and cowriters Kerry Chater and Lynn Gillespie Chater have perfectly captured the feelings of Joseph as he comes to term with the fact that Jesus is not his child, but that he will still fulfill the role of father. Another nice tune, and perhaps the most unique song on the album, is I’m Gonna Shine, which is told in the voice of the star which guided the wise men to Bethlehem. Ulisse concludes with Morning in Bethlehem, a Celtic-influenced tune featuring concertina and penny whistle which finds the shepherds spreading the joyful news of Jesus’s birth.
All the Way to Bethlehem is a mixture of the sounds of contemporary bluegrass and acoustic country music, with only a few of the songs sounding like traditional Christmas music. However, that’s not a bad thing – with the lineup of first-rate musicians Ulisse has assembled, the album will be quite enjoyable for fans. Joining Ulisse, who takes the role of lead vocalist throughout the project, are Viktor Krauss (bass), Andy Leftwich (mandolin and fiddle), and Rob Ickes (dobro), among others. Anyone looking for a fresh take on Christmas albums this holiday season won’t go wrong with this collection.
Ulisse plans to tour each year during the Christmas season performing the songs from this album, and fans can catch her final holiday show this year on December 21 at Puckett’s Grocery in Franklin, TN.
All The Way To Bethlehem is featured this week on Track-By-Track, airing on Sirius XM’s Bluegrass Junction (Channel 61). Donna sits with host Kyle Cantrell and discusses the songs as the album is played in its entirety.
Scheduled air times (EST) include:
- December 19 – 11:00 a.m.
- December 20 – 9:00 p.m.
- December 22 – 8:00 a.m.
- December 23 – 11:00 a.m.
- December 25 – TBA
For more information about Donna Ulisse, her new Christmas album, and upcoming performances, visit her website at www.donnaulisse.com.
About the Author (Author Profile)
John Goad is a graduate of the East Tennessee State University Bluegrass, Old Time & Country Music program, and is now pursuing a Masters degree in Appalachian Studies at ETSU.
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