3½ stars (out of 5)
By Aaron Keith Harris
At the age of 24, Sierra Hull has, one realizes, been a professional musician in and around the world of bluegrass music for 12 years now. During that time, she’s made of lot of musical friends, evidenced by the fact that this project is produced by Béla Fleck and features guest appearances by Alison Krauss, Rhiannon Giddens, and Abigail Washburn.
Weighted Mind has also been nominated for album of the year at the upcoming IBMA awards, and “Black River” is a song of the year nominee. Hull’s mandolin playing—smooth, sharp, and fluid— is the main ingredient throughout this 12-track, 44-minute disc, and more than worthy of her IBMA nomination in that category.
As producer, Fleck blends Hull’s eight strings with the lush resonance of double bassist Ethan Jodziewicz and a cast of (as far as one can tell from the liner notes) unnamed musicians) to craft a setting appropriate for Hull’s languid vocals and songs that “are darker in melody and lyrics,” as Hull writes in the liner.
Those still intrigued by—or just in the mood for—the angsty, post-adolescent emo that we’ve been getting from grown-up child virtuosi will regard this as a masterpiece. I’ll be putting “Black River” and “Wings of the Dawn” in my personal “new grass” iTunes playlist, and keep hoping for so many in a generation of great pickers to mature into a more ambitious brand of creativity.