Artist: Sierra Hull
Album: Weighted Mind
Release Date: 01/29/2016
Young though she may be, Sierra Hull has an enviable musical pedigree. Perhaps the world’s greatest living mandolin player, she signed her first record contract with Rounder at age 13. She was the first bluegrass musician to receive the Presidential Scholarship to the Berklee College of Music. She has played the White House.
Now, at the tender age of 22, she has reached something of a personal and professional crisis, which this new release chronicles. Produced impeccably by Bela Fleck, with bass and banjo accompaniment, all songs (except for the traditional “Queen of Hearts”) written or co-written by Ms. Hull, this is a quiet, stunning, introverted, self-reflective musical journey that is not quite bluegrass, not quite chamber, not pop, but unflinchingly original, transcendent music. Ms. Hull’s voice is neither strong nor compelling, but in its fragility and honesty, well matched to her compositions.
The opening “Stranded” is a brilliant, jazz-inflected instrumental punctuated by its sole verse: “Dear 22, I’m stranded here.” There is no “filler” on this great collection, but two songs in particular stand out: “Birthday” and “Lullaby.” They are so achingly, perfectly beautiful, that if the rest of the album was silence, this would still be an album to own and treasure. Making such an introspective, personal album can be a recipe for a self-indulgent disaster. But Ms. Hull’s unerring musical genius has blessed us with one superb aural treasure. May she continue to grow as a composer and musician. With a start like this, mere greatness doesn’t come close to defining her potential.