Jubilee – Becky Buller

Becky Buller is an exceptional musician who is widely regarded in bluegrass realms. She grew up making music with her parents in a Southern Minnesota band called Prairie Grass, and wrote her first songs while still in middle school. Later, she studied classical violin and later served as a concert master for a youth symphony, and sang in both concert and jazz choirs.

She came to the attention of the bluegrass community as a songwriter when she co-wrote Freedom for The Infamous Stringdusters’ album, Laws of Gravity, and has gone on to contribute The Shaker on The Travelin’ McCoury’s self-titled released LP, and Good-bye Girl, featured on Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway’s Crooked Tree release. All  three albums netted Grammys for Best Bluegrass Album in their respective years of release. Even so, she  has no need to rest on the laurels of those other artists’ accomplishments. Buller herself is the recipient of no less than ten IBMA awards, including the 2016 Fiddler and Female Vocalist honors, making her the first woman in the history of the awards to receive the Fiddler nod. In addition, she is also the first person in history to win in both vocal and instrumental categories.

A multi-instrumentalist — she plays fiddle, clawhammer banjo, and guitar, and also sings — Buller sits comfortably at the helm of her eponymous outfit, the Becky Buller Band, which includes Jacob Groopman (guitar), Daniel Hardin (bass), Wes Lee (mandolin), and Ned Luberecki (banjo). In addition, she plays a key role in the bluegrass supergroup of sorts, First Ladies of Bluegrass, along with Alison Brown, Sierra Hull, Missy Raines, and Molly Tuttle.

Her new album, Jubilee, from Dark Shadow Recording, her eighth effort to date and credited to her alone, is said to be her most personal set yet. Conceived as a song cycle, it was intended to chronicle her lifelong struggle with depression and anxiety, both of which came to a peak during the pandemic. Nevertheless, her attempt to be wholly revelatory and illuminating is mooted by the project’s engaging melodies, which, in effect, make it more celebratory than cerebral. The upbeat instrumental, Kismet gives Jubilee its sense of jubilation, and even though certain songs — the lovely ballad, Woman, the serendipitous, Spiral, and the sweetly serene title track in particular —  take a reflective stance, the mood never comes across as melancholy or morose, but uplifting and engaging instead. Even the track titled, Alone, which is most reflective of Buller’s emotional intent, comes across with a lithe pluck and strum that belies any sense of deepening despair. Quite the opposite, Whale purveys a clear sense of optimism and muted elation.

Indeed, except for the occasional instrumental interludes, the album is unceasingly spirited, and when, on the final track, Postlude, she sings of being akin to a jubilee, making it clear she has also become the personification of perseverance and promise.

A jubilee is always cause for celebration, and in this case, there’s no exception. 

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About the Author

Lee Zimmerman

Lee Zimmerman has been a writer and reviewer for the better part of the past 20 years. He writes for the following publications — No Depression, Goldmine, Country Standard TIme, Paste, Relix, Lincoln Center Spotlight, Fader, and Glide. A lifelong music obsessive and avid collector, he firmly believes that music provides the soundtrack for our lives and his reverence for the artists, performers and creative mind that go into creating their craft spurs his inspiration and motivation for every word hie writes.