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Sierra Hull Sierra Hull
Album: Weighted Mind
Label: Rounder
Tracks: 12

Produced by Bela Fleck

Sierra Hull is a gifted and respected bluegrass artist, who has stepped out of genre, found her muse, tamed her prodigious talent and produced an album of dazzling, simple complexity.

This is notionally Hull's fourth album, her first released when she was only 13 in 2002, and her third (and last until now) in 2011; all gems of neat and tasteful country music. Since then she has been a regular player on the US scene, a hard working jobbing musician, polishing her skill and technique; absorbing, awaiting, listening.

'Weighted Mind' should be viewed as the first album of a determined and unique artist, reborn, and standing beside strong independent voices. Anais Mitchell and Natalie Merchant are better comparators that her friend and mentor Alison Kraus.

Bluegrass and Americana are by no means absent is absent from this album, swing, harmonies and chord sequence all reference her roots, but she has made something more; much like the way that Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker have transcended the English Folk genre.

The album starts with 'Stranded', polyrhythmic mandolin arpeggios cascade over the stately bowed bass of Etna Jodziewicz. A vocal line, floats in and out of the mix, the bass picks up and, astonishingly, matches the mandolin note for note, before the track segues into 'Compass' without drawing breath, the lyrics giving a clue to what should be seen less as a change of direction, and more as the path she has been seeking, in her words.

I've thrown away my compass, done with the chart
I'm tired of spinning around

The theme continues in 'Choices and Changes', proudly showing its old timey roots

And I'll sing this song, if only for myself.
There's no point trying to be someone else.

The song writing is strong throughout, passionate and literate. Eleven originals are featured, the one traditional 'Queen of Hearts' leading into the instrumental 'Royal Tea' featuring a sparky interplay between mandolin, Bella Fleck's banjo and Jodziewicz's bass.

The title track, 'Weighted Mind' starts with syncopated mandolin over fluid bass, and is another modern parable of questioning and change from Hull. A subtle change in time signature leads into the chorus, before bar lengths settle down into a fractured, edgy groove.

An album of bass, mandolin and voice should sound empty and sparse, it doesn't. It sounds lush and full, almost symphonic in its grandeur. Beautify recorded, and framed in eloquent isolation, the warmth and depth of the instruments' overtones come out fully, one can almost smell the wood and sawdust of their making.

Hull has a handful of UK dates happening now, culminating on 2nd July in Burton Bradstock.

A brave album and a fresh new voice, unafraid to strike out in a new direction, shouting love and truth.

I'm moving on with my head held high.
With no regrets, even though it's goodbye
I'll be fine

Laura Thomas