Album, Single and EP Reviews



  Gaining Wisdom by Donna Hughes

Gaining Wisdom cover art

Artist: Donna Hughes
Title: Gaining Wisdom
Catalogue Number: Rounder 11661-0554-2
Review Format: CD
Release Year: 2007

There are those at Bluesbunny Towers who love bluegrass music and there are those who are lovers of punk. This leads to what might be described as spirited disagreements when the incoming CDs that are to be reviewed are divided up. Peace fell upon the room however when this album by Donna Hughes was played. It took but a few songs before all the reviewers were fighting over who was taking this one home. In order to avoid bloodshed, editorial privilege was invoked and this one went home with the Editor.

The album is opened with one of her own compositions - a fairly conventional "One More Time". Tasteful but there is better to come. In fact, we have to wait no longer than the next song ""What I'm Looking For". Despite the fact that the sound is clearly bluegrass, this is an urban hymn expressing the emptiness of modern life. "Scattered to the Wind" is a rip roaring revisit to the classic country theme of death and how you can't take it with you. Moving and effective, this was indeed one of the highlights of this album.  Talking of highlights, "Find Me out on a Mountain Top" was also a joy. A piano is not a common occurrence on a bluegrass album but it seems to fit perfectly here. There is nothing wrong with her interpretive skills either as she brings a wistful feel to her cover of Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time".  In case you missing a good old hoe down then after "Where Are You Darlin'?" you should be happy. Spectacularly good picking from Scott Vestal on banjo and the fiery fiddle of Ron Stewart kick this song right into life. In fact, now that we think about it, you would have to have a heart of ice not to be touched in some way by the songs on this album. Ms Hughes has a rare gift in taking the subjects of loss, death and emptiness and turning them into songs of hope.

Sounding fresh, natural and unforced, this album just leaves you feeling good. The musicianship is immaculate throughout as well without any of the sterility that tends to afflict so much modern music regardless of genre. Credit is certainly due to Tony Rice's sensitive production that provides a supportive environment for the warmth and humanity of Ms Hughes' singing. Now, there are also a number of big names featured on this album (Alison Krauss and Mary Chapin Carpenter, for example) but this very much Donna Hughes' album. A safe recommendation even if you are not a bluegrass fan.
Review Date: December 18 2007