When first hearing Donna Hughes' voice, her range seems limited, but with more listening, it becomes more captivating. She has a low, almost sultry, quality that lends itself to many of the songs. Her voice recalls Hazel Dickens or Alice Gerrard in its raw and gritty sound.
The best part is the instrumentals with songs like Cut Your Losses and Butterfly. Not surprising when you look at the world class cast who joined her - Scott Vestal on banjo, Adam Steffey on mandolin, Rob Ickes on Dobro and Aubrey Haynie on fiddle.
The instrumentals jump out at first, but this whole album really grows on you over time. There's a lot of subtlety here and very good lyrics. Jesse is a soulful story-song that is riveting, a commentary on fame and the recording industry. Blackbeard makes you listen closely to hear what happens next.
Mid Life Crisis, the only song of 15 not penned by Hughes, is a good one, but lacks the power and drive of the others; there's something more powerful about an artist performing their own work.
Throughout, there are songs to dance to, songs to listen to and songs that set your toes tapping. It's a very balanced, slickly produced effort. Not surprising as it was produced by JD Crowe.