We are so used to the fact that Donna Ulisse’s CDs consist entirely of her own songs that it comes as a surprise when she releases an album with only two of hers. This will be the case on the release of Showin’ My Roots on October 22nd.
A country singer in an earlier life – in 1991 she released an album, the highly acclaimed traditional country album Trouble at the Door on Atlantic Records, and had two videos after spending as decade as a backing singer – Ulisse grew up listening to and being influenced by the records of Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, Merle Haggard and Hank Locklin, among many others whose star shone brightly in Music City during the 1980s and 1990s.
On Showin’ My Roots Donna Ulisse offers another side to her talents, interpreting some country classics such as the two Loretta Lynn hits Fist City and Somebody Somewhere; Wynette’s Your Good Girl’s Gonna Go Bad; In The Good Old Days When Times Were Bad, a Dolly Parton song that was a hit for Merle Haggard; and Send Me The Pillow You Dream On.
For Ulisse, one big thrill for her was the pairing with Sam Bush for the duet on Leadbelly’s work song Take This Hammer.
Closer to her current home, she pays a tribute to her husband, Rick Stanley’s relatives by including Carter Stanley’s How Mountain Girls Can Love and Ralph’s If That’s The Way You Feel and Wait A Little Longer Please Jesus, the only song that she ever heard her father sing.
From the Monroe catalogue is I Hope You Have Learned, actually co-written by her great uncle.
At the beginning of the album is one of the two original Ulisse songs, written with the help of Rick Stanley; Showin’ My Roots, an ode to those whose “singin’ and writin’ lit a fire in me,” as Ulisse describes it, while closing this 13-song collection is I’ve Always Had a Song I Can Lean On, a message that illustrates the importance music has always played in Ulisse’s life.
Rounding out the set is her rendition of Rodney Crowell’s One Way Rider.
Ulisse co-produced Showin’ My Roots with acoustic guitar virtuoso Bryan Sutton, and the supporting cast includes Scott Vestal on banjo, Rob Ickes on dobro, Andy Leftwich on mandolin and fiddle, and Viktor Krauss and Byron House on upright bass.
Harmony vocalists include John Cowan, Carl Jackson, Larry Cordle, Fayssoux (Starling) McLean, Larry Stephenson, Frank Solivan, Jerry Salley and Rick Stanley.
Donna Ulisse and her group, the Poor Mountain Boys, will have a CD release party at the Station Inn on Tuesday, October 22nd.
In the meantime Showin’ My Roots is available for download purchase from her online store.
About the Author (Author Profile)
Richard F. Thompson is a long-standing free-lance writer specialising in bluegrass music topics.
A two-time Editor of British Bluegrass News, he has been seriously interested in bluegrass music since about 1970. As well as contributing to that magazine, he has, in the past 30 plus years, had articles published by Country Music World, International Country Music News, Country Music People, Bluegrass Unlimited, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass music journal) and Bluegrass Europe.
He wrote the annotated series I’m On My Way Back To Old Kentucky, a daily memorial to Bill Monroe that culminated with an acknowledgement of what would have been his 100th birthday, on September 13, 2011.
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