Friday, September 23, 2011

Donna Ulisse at the Whippoorwill in Gallatin, TN - Wednesday

 Downtown Gallatin, TN

The Whippoorwill

We made the pleasant drive up Tennessee Route 109 to Gallatin, TN late on Wednesday afternoon.  The town square, centered on the old courthouse with streets radiating away from it seemed cozy and charming.  The stores in the downtown area seem to have been hurt by the recession, but it's keeping up a brave face. The Wippoorwill, located at 118 N. Main Street in Gallatin offers live music nightly in a converted drug store serving "Prescriptions" from behind the old, marble lunch counter.  When we arrived a huge rear projection screen dominated the room. Shortly, the screed was raised to reveal a tight, but adequate stage.  The room is small, and the sound quite good.  The varied audience was a bit on the noisy side for our taste, but didn't manage to drown out the very fine performance of Donna Ulisse and the Poor Mountain Boys 

Donna Ulisse and the Poor Mountain Boys

Donna Ulisse, after years of toiling in the song-writing mills of Nashville, has emerged as a distinctive voice and sensibility on the bluegrass scene in the past three years. He supple upper alto voice and broad emotional range permit her song stylings to be both eloquent and satisfying.  Her song writing, exploring a wide variety of human experience in carefully crafted language, examines the relationship of her life to her spiritual journey, her appreciation of the rural environment she's come to love, and the satisfaction of sitting quietly with steam rising off a hot cup of coffee.  Her on-stage and off-stage manner is enthusiastic, open, friendly, and welcoming. This is a person whose personality and singing wraps the listener up in the positive world she inhabits. 

Donna Ulisse
Donna's band, the Poor Mountain Boys, contains a strong mixture of experienced Nashville musicians along with, on this day, two young brothers from California, making guest appearances with the band, who combine to offer strong support for her voice and excellent bluegrass picking on classic standards.  Providing harmony vocals and good rhythm guitar is Rick Stanley, Donna's husband and a cousin of Ralph Stanley.  Bobby King on Guitar and harmony vocals is a long-time veteran of the Brooks & Dun band. His harmonies and flat picking are both strong. Greg Davis is flat out terrific on banjo. A subtle and understated wizard.  John Martin on mandolin is strong, and offers first rate singing. A major strength of this band is its combination of excellent musicianship with very good singing, allowing lots of variety on vocal combinations.  Christian Ward, a member of Sierra Hull's band Highway 111 sat in on fiddle. Adding him to any band makes a positive difference. On bass was Christian's younger brother Austin Ward, just arrived in town from California and playing his first gig in Nashville as a guest in Ulisse's band.  The Ward brothers made a seamless entrance to the band on this evening.  

Rick Stanley

Greg Davis
John Martin
Bobby King

Christian Ward

Austin Ward

An added treat for Donna was the attendance at the event of music legends Ray Baker and Ray Edenton. Ray Baker produced records for Columbia by Moe Bandy, Connie Smith, Merle Haggard, and Charley Pride. Many were Grammy winners or number one records. Ray Edenton is a renowned Nashville session musician and touring player, having played an estimated 15,000 recording sessions in Nashville in every genre of music. Edenton has appeared with a Hall of Fame of musicians, and is a member of the Session Players Hall of Fame himself.

Ray Baker, Donna Ulisse, Ray Edenton

A good start to our stay in Nashville and our  World of Bluegrass experience.

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