Sierra Hull- accomplished singer/songwriter, Weber instrumentalist, musical prodigy who was signed with Rounder at the mere age of age 13, and the first bluegrass musician to receive a Presidential Scholarship to attend one of the most prestigious music schools: Berklee College of Music, has announced the release of her first new album in five years. Weighted Mind will be released on January 29, 2016.
Bela Fleck, 15-time Grammy Award winner, produced the long awaited album. It features eleven lyrically soulful new compositions written or co-written by Hull, and one traditional sound Sierra and Fleck created. Where Hull’s enchanting voice and impressive playing takes center stage on the recordings she also receives ample support from bass extraordinaire Ethan Jodziewicz. Bela Fleck accompanies “Queen of Hearts/Royal Tea” with some major banjo skills as well as Alison Krauss, Abigail Washburn, and Rhiannon Giddens adding stunning harmonies.
Though Sierra is best known for her mandolin work, after all she has been nominated for Best Mandolinist category by IBMA for the past 8 years consecutively, she proves on her new album that she is a soulful lyricist as well as talented composer. Themes of loss and restoration run through the album, starting with the muscular opening number, “Stranded,” and continue on the inspiring “Compass,” on which she declares, “I’ve thrown away my compass, done with the chart...I’ll just step out, throw my doubt into the sea, for what’s meant to be will be.” The gentle, dissonant title track ponders existential questions, while the haunting “Birthday” and “Fallen Man” offer somber reflections on strained relationships and impossible choices. The album closes on an optimistic note, with the sweetly assertive “I’ll Be Fine,” and the uplifting, philosophical closer, “Black River.” Fleck, Giddens, Krauss, and Washburn all guest on this track as well, on which Hull reflects, “A thousand years is but a day, and maybe in a thousand years, I’ll find my way.”
Veteran music scribe and fellow musician Peter Cooper writes, “Hull’s bluegrass roots inform and inspire this soundscape, but bluegrass does not define or limit Weighted Mind. This is not bluegrass music, or chamber music, or pop music. This is original music, from a virtuoso who tells the truth and speaks from herself.” The music she plays cannot be defined in one genre. The lyricist creates her own musical genre that is captivating.
Hearing Hull on a recording doesn’t measure up to listening/seeing to her perform live. You can truly feel the passion and authenticity in her music. If you want to see Hull before her album drops be sure to check out the Wide Open Bluegrass Festival in Raleigh, NC, presented by IBMA on October 3, 2015 at 9:30 p.m.
Sierra Hull will be touring extensively in 2016 kicking off with a CD release show at Nashville’s City Winery on January 28th. More tour dates will be announced soon and the Weber family can only hope she makes it out to Oregon!