All the bluegrass greats have sprung on board to praise the new album by former child prodigy-turned-rising-solo-star Sierra Hull, who was barely middle-school age when she first played her mandolin at the Grand Ole Opry, and is the only bluegrass performer to receive a Presidential Scholarship to Berklee College of Music.
“[Hull’s] talent is endless. I don’t see any boundaries,” says Alison Krauss, who, not incidentally, holds the record for most Grammys won by any female recording star.
“[Sierra] plays the mandolin with a degree of refined elegance and freedom that few have achieved,” says veteran banjo virtuoso Béla Fleck, who has plenty of Grammys himself but is not usually given to gushing.
Even the bio on Hull’s website is unusually well-tuned: “This is where a preternatural talent becomes a natural woman,” goes the passage that introduces Hull’s first album in five years, Weighted Mind. Having been bombarded with so much attention so early on. thanks to her wizardly chops, the singer/player took some time off to get to know herself, emerging not as a showy side musician or ensemble anchor but as, well, exactly what she is: a young, gifted person wondering where to turn next.
Compared with other genres, bluegrass always hews tight to tradition, putting arguably less emphasis on original songwriting than other categories of music. And yet Hull, still only 24, wrote 11 out of the 12 tracks on Weighted Mind. The confessional lyrics reveal a woman who’s knotting together the strings of her own timeline: “If you won’t go where I’m going, then I’ll have to go alone.” Ironically, with the release of Weighted Mind, she’s going to be toting a whole new cadre of fans with her.
Hull plays the main stage at Tryon Fine Arts Center in January, but first, catch her in a rare intimate venue, blues bar 185 King Street in Brevard, on Saturday, December 3.
8-11pm. $20-$26. 185kingst.com.