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Donna Hughes - Gaining Wisdom 
Review By: Jim Moulton, CSO Staff Journalist

Listening to Donna Hughes is like smelling sweet honeysuckle or listening to the sound of a clear mountain stream. Hughes vocals are plain refreshing. Producer Tony Rice (one of the best bluegrass guitarists around today) says "Donna has the potential to go as far as she wants to go".

Hughes started out writing songs and recording her own CDs and was getting artists like Alison Krauss's attention. Krauss recorded one of Hughes songs on her last CD Lonely Runs Both Ways

For guest artists this disc has the best including Alison Krauss, MCC Carpenter, Sam Bush, Rhonda Vincent, Alecia Nugent, Carl Jackson, Tim Stratford, Rob Ickes and Sonya Isaacs. This is Hughes' first disc on Rounder, a very potent label, full of great bluegrass artists, Blues artists and Americana Artists. This CD for the most part is full of mellow, acoustic songs that are just very well done, twelve originals and two covers.

Rice wanted to feature Hughes' piano talent, though she had played guitar on her previous CDs. She does an excellent job and the piano songs sort of take you to another style of music than bluegrass, really polished acoustic music. Hughes has written two hundred and fifty songs in the last ten years. 

This disc is like a who's who of the best bluegrass singers and pickers around today. It shows the respect that she has garnered for her songs. Rice has done a beautiful job with this music, it is so mellow and rich sounding. So many great pickers, yet they do not get in each others way. The overall sound reminds me a lot of Akus, but there are the slower just acoustic type songs too. Hughes has a beautiful vocal range with the best back up singers around. Definitely a modern recording, not an old time bluegrass, more pop oriented and new grass. But with Alison Krauss and Rhonda Vincent (two of bluegrass's best) on the disc, it shows the evolution of where bluegrass is going.

By the way, Rice is an awesome guitar picker, really has a style all his own, never had the privilege to listen to him in depth, he plays effortlessly and does runs that make you just say "wow", as Rob Ickes is a Dobro player that is ever as good as Jerry Douglas and a pleasure to listen to. Scott Vestal plays banjo and fits in well. Oh yeah, can not forget Sam Bush on mandolin, another great player in his own right.

"Talking To The Wind" features Tony's guitar and Donna's piano plus vocals of Carl Jackson and Alecia Nugent. It is about the sad displacement of the American Indian, great song. Rice is at his best here on guitar. I do believe that Hughes has some Indian blood in her. 

I am out of space here and could really go on a lot more, but you need to hear this yourself. It might be the best bluegrass CD of the year. In a pop world of cookie cutter top forty music, this disc is pure creative genius. This is a must have for bluegrass lovers.


To order this CD, click the cover above.

Related Links:
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Real People Reviews

Love the CD; have bought several copies for family and friends. Donna touches the soul through her heartfelt words. The
accompaniment is fantastic. She is a hometown girl. I have seen her live several times. She is as sweet in personality as she is in song. She's going far. Enjoyed your review. Hope to see Donna at some larger festivals next year....Some songs can cross-over.
~ Jeannie F.

 

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