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Sierra Hull

Daybreak – 2011 (Rounder)

Reviewed by Kevin Oliver

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CDs by Sierra Hull

Sierra Hull may have made her mark at 16 with her debut album, but as she sings on the opening track Easy Come, Easy Go from "Daybreak," "I'm not a child any more." Any talk of 'child prodigy' ought to cease with this assured sophomore effort, produced by Union Station's Barry Bales and Hull.

She isn't a flashy picker or vocalist, yet her self confident mastery of both shines throughout songs such as the traditional bluegrass of Don't Pick Me Up and the newgrass instrumental Bombshell. In fact, if one wasn't aware of her age while listening to these songs, it would have no real reason to come up either as criticism or compliment - the songs stand on their own, as do the performances. Comparisons can be made to many of the preceding female bluegrass and country artists who have blazed this path already, and Hull takes from each what she needs to form her own musical persona. Listen closely, and you'll hear the upbeat picking of Rhonda Vincent, the quiet emotions of Alison Krauss, the spiritual searching of Claire Lynch and the easily relatable songwriting of Dolly Parton.

Perhaps the one advantage of youth Hull has left is her willingness to tackle different sounds, not settling for a straight bluegrass sound or allowing herself to fall into a more polished, contemporary style. At 19, she is still able to hopscotch like a child through traditional, modern, swing, country and more, with the sure hand of Bales tying everything together.