Review: Donna Hughes – From the Heart

Donna Hughes, whose unstrained, contented voice has long appealed to me, has recently released an album, From the Heart, which shows her heart is also perfectly unstrained and contented. If you love bluegrass for its bitter stories or strained harmonies, this album is not for you. This is a long-playing view of contentment and ease.

She is joined on this album by Scott Vestal, Tim Stafford, Zak McLamb, Rob Ickes, Jenee Fleenor, Cory Piatt, Emily Hatley, Lucas White, Greg Luck, Jason Burleson and John Catchings. Andy Kearns is the auctioneer on “Gone.”

The only notes of bitterness come from two of our favorite things about which to complain: Facebook and Walmart. Her “Walmart Checkout Line” is mostly about people not being treated with respect, but is also about her disrespect for people who don’t speak English or dress like “nuts”. I’m all for protesting Walmart’s dehumanizing effect, but really, Donna Hughes, you have too much love in your heart to turn on people who dress or speak differently from you.

“There’s No Place Like Home”

My favorite songs on this beautiful album are “Love,” “There’s No Place Like Home,” and “Hard Hearted.” Her cover of “I’ll Fly Away” is very easy to listen to, although I like Johnny Cash’s and the Kossoy Sisters’ versions better. “The Way I Am” is one of my favorite antidotes to the longtime bluegrass tradition of disparaging women, and especially wives. A couple of the songs, such as “Facebook” and “Dog on a 10 Foot Chain,” are a little too cutesy for me, but they still make me want to sing along.

There are 21 songs on this album and you’ll want to sing or hum, along with almost all of them. The songs are almost all sweet and contented and her lyrics are ripening so that they almost match the fulfilled and harmonious tone of her voice. I can’t wait to hear more.

Running Dog Records

Robin Gustafson

Robin was raised on traditional, Appalachian mountain music, bluegrass music, and protest music. She has taken lessons in banjo and guitar although, sadly, these instruments did not get her to the Grand Ol' Opry. Instead, Robin sings in a choir here in the Hudson Valley, and she sing all kinds of harmony at Pinewoods Camp during the summer. When not singing, she is a cognitive scientist who studies how song and dance affect cognitive functioning.

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