After a shot with a major label country release in 1991 failed to ignite, Donna has focused on songwriting, often with husband Rick Stanley, a cousin of the celebrated Dr. Ralph. This second project for Hadley Music Group of Nashville again consists of Ulisse singing her original material.
For this new CD, she has assembled as fine a studio band as Nashville’s wealth of pickers allows. Keith Sewell produces and plays guitar, Andy Leftwich is on fiddle and mandolin, Scott Vestal on banjo, Rob Ickes on resonator guitar and Byron House on bass. Backing vocals are provided by Sewell, Claire Lynch, Curtis Wright, Jerry Salley and Rick Stanley.
Using the same core band throughout gives the album cohesion, and they provide just the right accompaniment for each song – hard driving on the grassier numbers and sparse on the ballads. There are many memorable solos, but the focus remains on the stories.
We asked Donna to tell us about a couple of the songs from the new record…
Walk This Mountain Down – Listen now: [http://media.libsyn.com/media/thegrasscast/walk_this_mountain.mp3]
“At the end of 2007 my husband, Rick Stanley and I took a few major hits in our family. We lost my Aunt Jeannie, Rick’s father, Richard E. Stanley and 28 days later Rick’s baby sister Anita! WOW! That would knock the wind out of anyone but especially Rick’s mother Yvonne, whom I adore. I watched her go through her baby girl’s funeral with such grace, her face stoic, her back as straight and strong as an oak tree but the world knew how hard it was on her.
When we were trying to say goodbye after it was all over that was the very hardest goodbye to utter. I was thinking right in that very moment that she was on a mountain top alone and she would have to walk it down alone. Rick and I had a long trip back to Nashville and I was telling him about what I was thinking and the next thing you know a song was being born. I know the lyric doesn’t reflect the story I just told but that’s where the idea was born.
Some time’s you just have to walk a mountain down and move on. Easier said than done I’m thinking.”
Levi Stone – Listen now: [http://media.libsyn.com/media/thegrasscast/levi_stone.mp3]
“This was a tough song to write for sure. I had it on my list for years and couldn’t figure out how to write it so as not to stand in judgment of this man Levi. Finally on the Monday after I had just gotten back from a visit to the Clinch Mountains I shared this story with my good friend and co-writer Marc Rossi. (I fondly dubbed him ‘Monday Marc’ because we have been writing every Monday for about seven years now.)
Levi was an older second cousin of my husband Rick Stanley. He passed away about a year and a half ago and maybe that is why I felt like I could write it finally. Levi would come over and sit on the front porch swing of my in-laws’ mountain cabin and visit with us every time we were there. He never mentioned what happened all those years ago with his family but we all knew the story about Levi’s young son and the strong faith in a religion that didn’t believe in man’s medicine. He didn’t have to tell the story because it was written in his eyes.
When Marc picked up the guitar and found that beautiful, haunting melody the words just formed without much effort. I thought we told the story as honestly as we could but the proof was in my husband’s face when I sang it for him the night that we wrote it. Rick said we absolutely nailed the tale as he wiped his eyes.”
You’ll be able to find Walk This Mountain Down wherever bluegrass music is sold on Tuesday January 20. Audio samples for all 13 tracks can be found on CD Baby.