by Kaya Savas
Here at All About Vocals we are obsessed with the human voice and the first thing you’re likely to notice when you listen to Donna Ulisse, whether live or on a recording, is her pure, natural, and authentic voice. Variously described as “rapturous and angelic,” strong, supple, warm, rich, companionable and crystalline. Ulisse (pronounced You-liss-ee) has been called “one of the best singer-songwriters in bluegrass.” Which leads us to her release of Breakin’ Easy. The album was produced by label-mate and Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame member, Doyle Lawson
“Back Home Feelin’ Again” is a fine example of her voice, her unique writing style and the heart and soul in which she pours into both is remarkable. With the mandolin taking the lead and providing fills between the vocals, this track has beautiful lyrics and melody that with make you feel nostalgic. Her singing is pure and warm, doubled by a male voice for the chorus and parts of the bridge. The verse is just Ulisse, her voice has just enough tinge of bluegrass inflection to color it blue, it is pure in tone and delivery, so much so, that she makes you forget about styles and invites you just to listen.
On a upbeat, “Made For Each Other,” she has a nice bluegrass pulse that will get you moving and singing along. With lyrics that will keep you interested and a vocal delivery that makes it easy to hear and understand, which is what good songwriting is all about. This cut offers mandolin and violin playing that will satisfy the bluegrass instrumentalist and Ulisse’s voice will certainly please anyone’s ears.
“Where My Mind Can Find Some Rest” continues the good feeling, with rich lyrics and a gentile melody that is sung with style and supple angelic phrasing, yes, I also agree with previous assessments of her voice. Ulisse does not push her vocal lines, neither in range or delivery. Instead, she keeps everything in her range and under control, putting her attention on delivering clear lyrics that sit comfortably in the rhythmic pocket and in tune with the harmony. What more could one ask for?
Breakin’ Easy brings a new sound for Ulisse. With a blend of traditional and contemporary bluegrass, gospel and country flavors combined with impeccable songwriting. With a voice that is rich, warm and commanding, she has a well-deserved reputation for bringing a song to life with both style and musical integrity.