Words by Doug DeLoach
Mandolin prodigy steps out from her mentors’ shadows
The last time Sierra Hull released an album, the mandolin prodigy and protégé of Alison Krauss was only a year short of her 20s. Five years on, Weighted Mind represents the carefully wrought expression of a young, maturing woman seeking direction, asking questions and earnestly observing a whirling world. It also imparts an affirmation of the early bright promise of a singer with a beautiful, facile voice and vivid articulation; an instrumentalist of transcendent talent; and a smart, sensitive songwriter. Weighted Mind is a solo effort in nearly every sense of the word.
While Béla Fleck lends banjo licks to two of the album’s standout tracks, ‘Queen of Hearts/Royal Tea’ and ‘Black River’, the remaining ten songs feature either Hull alone (on standard and octave mandolin) or accompanied by bassist Ethan Jodziewicz. On a few selections Abigail Washburn, Rhiannon Giddens and Alison Krauss provide harmony vocals. With the lone exception of Hull’s arrangement of the traditional ‘Queen of Hearts’ all of the songs are originals. Hull’s music is not easily categorised, bearing traces of Western ballads, Appalachian hollers, knee-slapping bluegrass rhythms and quirky indie-rock changes.
Weighted Mind is a sophisticated effort, and a worthy next-step statement about the transition from kid-sensation to prime-time pro.