3.5 stars (out of 5)
There are no presumptions or theatrics in Donna Hughes’ voice, but her vocals are anything but dull. What sets her apart from any other blonde with a guitar is the sincerity in her voice, and ultimately, her lyrics. Her songs are a conversation with the listener, speaking straight to our hearts with her wisdom gained.
“One More Time” and “Not Anymore” are good examples of Hughes’ honest delivery. These songs delve into such life experiences as love, loss and the pain resulting from both. Her cover of Tim Stafford’s song, “Find Me Out on a Mountain Top” utilizes the minor chord as an understated blessing, a pattern repeated elsewhere on the album.
The winding piano melody in “Father Time” provides an excellent image of Father Time’s infallible pocket watch. Hughes acknowledges our powerlessness to stop the clock, but whispers a melancholy “Carpe Diem,” reminding us to take advantage of the moments we have, lest a time come when we remember the leaps we failed to make.
What really sets this album apart is the plethora of musical cameos in the band. Instrumentalists like Sam Bush, Ron Stewart, Tim Stafford, Rob Ickes and of course Tony Rice, help make this recording a stroll down the bluegrass red carpet. With background vocals from Alison Krauss and Sonya Isaacs as well as Mary Chapin-Carpenter, Donna will be hard pressed to find a better crew. Tony Rice obviously put his heart into helping make this record possible. His guitar expertise compliments Donna’s record in the same way a good book is complimented by rain upon the window and an excellent cup of coffee.
Despite the impression that the emotional dexterity in Hughes’ voice may not match the strength of her lyrics, her music is still powerful because of its honesty. As Kurt Vonnegut once said, “Truth can be really powerful stuff; you’re not expecting it.”
by Erin Faith