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Donna Ulisse’s Time for Love (LP)

Crisply mixed and full of a rich vitality that you rarely hear on the Top 40 anymore, Donna Ulisse’s vocal in “Magazine Rack,” one of the songs from her new album Time for Love, is presented to us at what I would call its most playful, but this doesn’t make her words any less intriguing in tracks like this one, “Hi Lonesome” and the fragile string ballad “I’m Not Afraid.” This is one bluegrass artist whose voice is strong enough to drive an entire band’s beat, and whether swinging to a big tempo or taking it slow, Ulisse highlights her talents without any inhibition in Time for Love and ends up delivering one of the best bluegrass LP of the fall in the process.

The songs on this album are very harmony-based, and among my favorites of the lot include “Get on Home Boy,” “Come to Jesus Moment,” “My Whole World is Standing Still” and the opening track “When I Go All Bluegrass on You.” Ulisse really gives it to us in Time for Love; from her dynamic vocal attack to the instrumental fabric that she utilizes as the perfect canvas for her poetic lashings, there’s not a single stitch of this record left unadorned by her unique artistic touch.

I found the finish on “I’ll Never Find Another You” and “When We’ve Got Time for Love” to be really excellently textured, and it was probably in these two songs that I started to realize just how organic an album this really is. Everything here has a certain legitimacy that can’t be squeezed out of a plasticized synth melody no matter how sparkling, and the lack of augmentations really adds to the homespun feel of the music a lot. It’s not the rawest record that I’ve heard all year, but to some degree, Time for Love is as black and white a bluegrass LP as you could ask for nowadays without getting something insufferably left-field.

AIRPLAY DIRECT: https://airplaydirect.com/music/timeforlove/

While I would have put the trio of “Hi Lonesome,” “Red Top Mountain Road” and “I’m Not Afraid” ahead of “Heart of Rosine” and “Seven Lonely Days” in the tracklist, I can understand why Ulisse might have been going for a different kind of flow here. There’s a certain anti-rigidity to the construction of this music, and in keeping the pace of the album unconventional (at least by my own critical measurement), she forces us to remain tuned in to her every word, and more specifically, every melodic swing in the beat.

Before picking up my own copy of Time for Love this November, I was only somewhat familiar with the collective works of Donna Ulisse, but you can believe that I’m going to spend a lot more time with her discography after discovering this latest release. She’s putting her gifts to work for her in this disc, and submitting some of the most stylish bluegrass crossover content that I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing in 2019. It’s a great time to be a fan of the genre, and particularly anything coming off of the Billy Blue Records imprint, which is undeniably featuring some of the hottest talent in this scene right now.

Mindy McCall

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