Donna Hughes | Gaining Wisdom

Gaining Wisdom

albumcover-gainingwisdom200Donna Hughes
Gaining Wisdom

Rounder Records

Release Date: February 27, 2007

ORDER AT AMAZON

GAINING WISDOM includes 14 original songs by Donna Hughes. The album was produced by the legendary Tony Rice and includes harmonies by Alison Krauss, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Tony Rice, Sonya Isaacs, Rhonda Vincent, Alecia Nugent, Lona Heins and Carl Jackson. Other amazing guests include Sam Bush, Wyatt Rice, Rob Ickes, Scott Vestal, Mike Bub, Tim Stafford, Ron Stewart, Wayne Benson, Rickie Simpkins, Bryn Bright, and Kati Penn. The album, captures some phenomenal performances! Graced with 14 tracks, 12 written by Donna, it is sure to please!

Lyrics

Track Listing:
01 One More Time 3:59
02 What I’m Looking For 3:00
03 Father Time 2:49
04 Time After Time 3:38
05 Scattered to the Wind 3:16
06 Not Anymore 3:00
07 Sad Old Train 2:32
08 Find Me Out On A Mountain Top 2:11
09 Bottom of a Glass 2:59
10 Letters 3:13
11 Too Many 2:26
12 Hold On 3:43
13 Where Are You Darlin’ 3:07
14 Talking to the Wind 3:31
15 He Was There 3:24
16 Simple Man 2:36

MP3s also available at iTunes, CD BABY, AMAZON, Village Records and more Gaining Wisdom
Rounder Records
Release Date: February 27, 2007

USA TODAY’S FAVORITE ALBUMS OF 2007 by Ken Barnes
#1 Best CD of 2007 by Travis Tackett BluegrassJournal.com
Top 10 CDs of 2007 by CountryStarsOnline.com

GAINING WISDOM was produced by the legendary Tony Rice and includes harmonies by Alison Krauss, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Tony Rice, Sonya Isaacs, Rhonda Vincent, Alecia Nugent, Lona Heins and Carl Jackson. Other amazing guests include Sam Bush, Wyatt Rice, Rob Ickes, Scott Vestal, Mike Bub, Tim Stafford, Ron Stewart, Wayne Benson, Rickie Simpkins, Bryn Bright, and Kati Penn. The album captures some phenomenal performances! Graced with 14 tracks, 12 written by Donna, it is sure to please!  Order your copy today!

READ ROUNDER PRESS RELEASE

GAINING WISDOM  lyrics/credits

COVER:
Donna Hughes
Gaining Wisdom

SPINE:
Donna Hughes
Gaining Wisdom
Rounder 11661-0554-2

REAR CARD:

As the title Gaining Wisdom suggests, Donna Hughes has a rare gift for transforming her experiences into riveting, revealing songs that are both uniquely personal and universally accessible. Until now Hughes was best known as an eminent songwriter, her songs having been recorded by such artists as Alison Krauss and the Seldom Scene. Gaining Wisdom finds Hughes to be an exceedingly compelling performer in her own right, delivering her compositions in a soulful, expressive voice with the support of a remarkable cast of musicians and vocalists.

Produced by Tony Rice, and featuring Alison Krauss, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Sam Bush, Alecia Nugent, Carl Jackson, Tim Stafford, Sonya Isaacs, and many more.

“In whatever musical context she chooses, Donna has the potential to go as far as she wants. I truly believe this album is going to amaze everybody.”–Tony Rice

“Donna is a great writer and singer, an original voice crying in the wilderness for the 21st century. We need a hundred more like her.”–Tim Stafford, Blue Highway

“One of the best new singer-songwriters in the world of bluegrass…”–Carl Jackson

p & © 2007 Rounder Records Corp. One Rounder Way, Burlington MA 01803 USA.
ROUNDER is a registered trademark of the Rounder Records Group.
http://www.rounder.com  info@rounder.com

UPC number 0-11661-0554-2-1

BOOKLET:

1. One More Time
(Donna Hughes/Flying Hound Publishing, BMI)

Lead Guitar-Tony Rice
Rhythm Guitar-Tim Stafford
Dobro-Rob Ickes
Bass-Mike Bub
Mandolin-Sam Bush
Fiddle-Ron Stewart
Harmony vocals-Alison Krauss & Mary Chapin Carpenter

I don’t know where or when it was over
I’ll try not to cry one more time on your shoulder
You were mine.  And yours is all I wanted to be
In your eyes, I found all I wanted to see

One last time, won’t you hold me
Take my hand, dance with me slowly
Tonight, I’ll be yours if only….one more time

We were wild….every moment we longed to be together
We shared our dreams…..and a faithful promise of forever
What once was love has faded into memories, and closes like a door
All this time, I needed you and something changed.
I don’t need you anymore

One last time, won’t you hold me
Take my hand, dance with me slowly
Tonight, I’ll be yours if only….one more time

pinterest-donnahughes12. What I’m Looking For
(Donna Hughes/Flying Hound Publishing, BMI)

Lead Guitar-Tony Rice
Rhythm Guitar-Wyatt Rice
Bass-Bryn Bright
Mandolin-Rickie Simpkins
Dobro-Rob Ickes
Harmony Vocals-Lona Heins & Alecia Nugent

It’s a cold world, sometimes I feel all alone
It’s a long road, that I’m rolling on
And I wonder, if I’m on the path I should have taken
And I’m still here, even though my heart is breakin’

Chorus: Someday I’m gonna find what I’m looking for
Someday I’ll find my place in this world
Someday I’m gonna know why I’m here
When I find, what I’m looking for

It’s a big old world, and sometimes I lose my way
But I keep searching, and I get closer every day
I can’t look back, and I can’t go back in time
I gotta move one, and leave the past behind

3. Father Time
(Donna Hughes/Flying Hound Publishing, BMI)

Guitar-Tony Rice
Piano-Donna Hughes
Bass-Bryn Bright
Mandolin-Rickie Simpkins
Dobro-Rob Ickes
Harmony Vocals-Mary Chapin Carpenter & John Carroll

The wind is blowing through the pines
Always stealing from me, father time
Taking from me, what was never mine
One more day, one more night

Always longing, for the past
Taking for granted, the time at hand
Every moment like shifting sand
Leaving weary, the strongest man

Many fortunes have been gained & lost
Upon the ocean, many ships have crossed
Many brilliant souls have lived & died
At the hands of father time

I’m not promised another day
Still I’m reckless & time I waste
All my tears, cried in vain
Gaining wisdom as beauty fades
Gaining wisdom as beauty fades

Many seasons have now come & gone
Fleeting memories overwhelm my soul
And as the hands of fate, twist & unwind
I’m at the mercy, of father time

4. Time After Time
(Rob Hyman-Cyndi Lauper/WB Music Corp. obo Dub Notes-Sony ATV Songs LLC obo Rella Music Corp.)

Guitar-Tim Stafford
Dobro-Rob Ickes
Bass-Mike Bub
Mandolin-Wayne Benson
Fiddle-Ron Stewart
Banjo-Scott Vestal
Harmony Vocals-Carl Jackson & Sonya Isaacs

Lying in my bed I hear the clock tick,
and think of you
caught up in circles confusion–
is nothing new
Flashback–warm nights–
almost left behind
suitcases of memories,
time after–

Sometimes you picture me–
I’m walking too far ahead
you’re calling to me, I can’t hear
what you’ve said–
Then you say–go slow–
I fall behind–
the second hand unwinds

chorus: If you’re lost you can look–and you will find me
time after time
if you fall I will catch you–I’ll be waiting
time after time

After my picture fades and darkness has turned to gray
watching through windows–you’re wondering if I’m OK
Secrets stolen from deep inside
the drum beats out of time–

chorus: If you’re lost you can look–and you will find me
time after time
if you fall I will catch you–I’ll be waiting
time after time

5. Scattered To The Wind
(Donna Hughes/Flying Hound Publishing, BMI)

Lead Guitar-Tony Rice
Rhythm Guitar-Wyatt Rice
Bass-Bryn Bright
Mandolin-Rickie Simpkins
Dobro-Rob Ickes
Harmony Vocals-Mary Chapin Carpenter & John Carroll

She kept the beds made and stayed there all alone
Washed her clothes and hung them out to dry
Did things the same old way and though her kids were gone
She kept the lights on in their room at night
She kept the dust away until she could no more
and the house was sold and everything inside
All her treasures were not worth much at all
Always happy she had never questioned why

Chorus: Everything she owned was scattered to the wind
Sold at auction on a sunny autumn day
It took a lifetime to find all the things she wanted
And a day for all those hands to come and carry them away

Her daughter closed the door and looked back one last time
She could feel her mother’s eyes
Watching down on her just like years ago
From her window at the kitchen as a child
Those summer nights seemed like they would never end
And she remembered how her Mama prayed for rain
Where did all that time go and leave me here
To face the world without my Mama in the rain?

Chorus: Everything she owned was scattered to the wind
Sold at auction on a sunny autumn day
It took a lifetime to find all the things she wanted
And a day for all those hands to come and carry them away

6. Not Anymore
(Donna Hughes/Flying Hound Publishing, BMI)

Guitar-Tony Rice
Piano-Donna Hughes
Bass-Bryn Bright
Mandolin-Rickie Simpkins
Dobro-Rob Ickes
Harmony Vocals-Mary Chapin Carpenter & John Carroll

I used to cry over you
I lost my heart, and there was nothing I could do
I couldn’t smile when you would leave
If you were mad, I couldn’t find the strength to breathe

I used to pine for what we had
I woke up hurting in my heart for you so bad
A stronger love had never been
I used to miss you, and all the times we spent

Chorus:
Not anymore

Not now
You tore my heart out, gave me up, and brought me down
You set me free
Walked out the door
I used to need you to be happy
Not anymore

Time heals everything
You almost killed me, when you left and now I see
I think of you now & then
But you’ll never get the chance to break my heart again

Chorus:
Not anymore
Not now
You tore my heart out, gave me up, and broke me down
Now I’m free
Now I’m sure
I used to think I really loved you
I used to think I’d die without you
Not anymore

7. Sad Old Train  (Also recorded by the Seldom Scene, released 8-14-07 on “Scenchronized”)
(Donna Hughes/Flying Hound Publishing, BMI)

Guitar-Tim Stafford
Dobro-Rob Ickes
Bass-Mike Bub
Mandolin-Wayne Benson
Fiddle-Ron Stewart
Banjo-Scott Vestal
Harmony Vocals-Carl Jackson & Sonya Isaacs

That sad old train
Sleeping on an old rusty track
She was from another time
Gone with the wind like the smoke from that old stack
She brought smiles & waving hands
As she whistled by a sleepy town
It was once the way to go
Just a shiny nickel, and you were homeward bound

Chorus:
I’ve seen better days like that sad old train

On an old abandoned track
When you were holding me, I knew someday you’d leave
Like that old train, you won’t be coming back

She gently rumbled in the sunshine
As she carried home the mail
Her letters keeping lovers waiting
And friendly little boys placing pennies on her rails
I can relate to that old train
Since you left me all alone again
No one ever comes around
And once upon a time, we were riding on the wind

Chorus:
I’ve seen better days like that sad old train
On an old forgotten track
When you were holding me, I knew someday you’d leave
Like that old train, you won’t be coming back

8. Find Me Out On A Mountain Top
(Tim Stafford/Daniel House Music, BMI)

Piano-Donna Hughes
Fiddle-Kati Penn
Cello-Obil Perez
Harmony Vocals-Carl Jackson & Kati Penn

Find me out on a mountain top
Where the cool breezes blow through the pines
Find me out on a mountain top
I’m leaving this old world behind

Fifteen miles from the nearest town
Is where I’ll take my rest
And I’m leaving behind my troubled mind
And the (boy) that I love the best

A country (girl) in a city world
Will never find a home
Like a morning dove on a high roof top
I’m better left all alone

Find me out on a mountain top
Where the cool breezes blow through the pines
Find me out on a mountain top
I’m leaving this old world behind
I’m leaving this old world behind

9. Bottom of a Glass
(Donna Hughes/Flying Hound Publishing, BMI)

Guitar-Tony Rice
Dobro-Rob Ickes
Bass-Mike Bub
Mandolin-Sam Bush
Fiddle-Ron Stewart
Banjo-Scott Vestal
Harmony Vocals-Carl Jackson & Rhonda Vincent

Young & handsome
Star of the team
What all the young guys simply wanted to be
Girls dreamed about him, and he thought he had it all
He got one in trouble, and the star began to fall

Fell into drinking, blew his college chance away
Left her on her own, couldn’t face the life he’d made
And all his promises would soon turn into lies
She never made him happy, and he never made it right

Chorus:
And he drank to kill the trouble on his mind
He couldn’t face the future or the ones he’d left behind
Every day was more lonely than the last
And he only found forgiveness in the bottom of a glass

He started running with the wrong kind of crowd
He started sleeping on the wrong side of town
Then as time went on he tried so hard to change
But he always left her crying, she could never make him stay

One lonely night, with tears on his face
He raised his glass and his life slipped away
Just a memory, once like a dream
Everyone had loved him, the star of the team

Chorus:
And he drank to forget about the past
And all he ever wanted was what he couldn’t have
Every day was more lonely than the last
But he finally found forgiveness at the bottom of a glass
Yeah he finally found forgiveness, at the bottom of a glass

10. Letters
(Donna Hughes/Flying Hound Publishing, BMI)

Guitar-Tim Stafford
Dobro-Rob Ickes
Bass-Mike Bub
Mandolin-Wayne Benson
Fiddle-Ron Stewart
Harmony Vocals-Carl Jackson & Alecia Nugent

When I was young, my grandma lived two hours away
When I first learned to write, I had a lot to say
I wrote her a letter every week, she couldn’t wait to get them
She couldn’t wait to see

What I was doing, and all about my friends
What I was dreaming, places I had been
What I was hoping that I could be someday
I wrote it in my letters
And I mailed them all away

She always wrote me back
Every single week
And how I loved to get her letters from the time I could read
Years later I was going through her things
And I found all the letters she had saved from me
When she went to Heaven I cried so many tears
But she’s here in these letters after all these years

What she was doing and all about her friends
What she was dreaming, places she had been
What she was hoping, and things she’d like to see
She wrote it in her letters, and she mailed it off to me

11. Too Many
(Donna Hughes/Flying Hound Publishing, BMI)

Guitar-Tony Rice
Dobro-Rob Ickes
Bass-Mike Bub
Mandolin-Sam Bush
Fiddle-Ron Stewart
Banjo-Scott Vestal
Harmony Vocals-Carl Jackson & Rhonda Vincent

Should I leave, should I stay
Should I try to walk away from you tonight, without a fight
Like a wound that will not heal,
I cannot change the way I feel for you tonight
Oh how I’ve tried

Chorus:
Too many teardrops

Too many heartaches
Too many pieces on the floor
Too much is broken
Too much was taken
Too many things I can’t ignore
I just can’t love you anymore

Should we give it one more try,
Even though it’s just a lie we tell ourselves
Just one more time
I forget the reasons why you once were always on my mind
I think it’s time
To say goodbye

Chorus:
Too many teardrops

Too many heartaches
Too many pieces on the floor
Too much is broken
Too much was taken
Too many things I can’t ignore
I just can’t love you anymore

12. Hold On (the song that inspired Tony Rice to want to produce this album)
(Donna Hughes/Flying Hound Publishing, BMI)

Guitar-Tony Rice
Piano-Donna Hughes
Bass-Bryn Bright
Mandolin-Rickie Simpkins
Dobro-Rob Ickes
Harmony Vocals-Mary Chapin Carpenter & John Carroll

Miles of highway, between me and my home
I think about you, when it rains and I’m alone
Another day, another memory
The sun disappears
Another morning without you and I…
cry another tear

Chorus:
What I want might not make me happy
What I do might bury me
What I’m chasing might not ever happen
And it might not set me free
Anything you decide to take for granted
Is just the same as letting go
The hardest thing you’ll ever do is find you something
That makes you happy, and knowing how and when to hold on

It’s taken so long to get where I am
I’ve got a long way to get where I wanna stand
Sometimes I’m crazy, for the things that I believe
Have I done the best I can, is this, the best that I can be?

Chorus: What I want might not make me happy
What I do might bury me
What I’m chasing might not ever happen
And it might not set me free
Anything you decide to take for granted
Is just the same as letting go
The hardest thing you’ll ever do is find you something
That makes you happy, and knowing how and when to never let it go.

13. Where Are You Darlin’?
(Donna Hughes/Flying Hound Publishing, BMI)

Guitar-Tony Rice
Dobro-Rob Ickes
Bass-Mike Bub
Mandolin-Sam Bush
Fiddle-Ron Stewart
Banjo-Scott Vestal
Harmony Vocals-Carl Jackson & Sonya Isaacs

Out there in a sea of lights, and strangers rushing in the night
I’m lonesome for a time
When I had you and felt complete, and then you sailed away from me
Along with all my dreams
I can’t go on, I can’t go back
I find that I am lost again
Tired of starting all over again

Chorus:
Where are you darlin’?
Do you think of me?
Where are you darlin’?
I’ll see you in my dreams

I don’t know where to go from here, my heart was true to you my dear
Even after all this time
I let you disappear from me, like the sun behind the sea
Will we ever meet again?
Each day I wonder where you are, somewhere underneath these stars
Somewhere in my broken heart

Chorus: Where are you darlin’?
Do you think of me?
Where are you darlin’?
I’ll see you in my dreams

14. Talking To The Wind
(Donna Hughes/Flying Hound Publishing, BMI)

Guitar-Tony Rice
Piano-Donna Hughes
Harmony Vocals-Carl Jackson & Alecia Nugent

On a trading path through the Carolinas
Used by Indians who braved the wind & rain
They settled down beside the raging waters
And they worked the land until the white men came and formed the counties
And took away their land and made the boundaries
Goverened with a heavy hand and you….

Chorus:
Can almost hear that song, of that old Indian
Longing for his home, along the waters edge
Climbing mountains to escape the laws of white man
Walking softly in the rain & talking to the wind

They were friendly and they rode on painted horses
Fearing no one, not harming anything
They were trusting when the pilgrims came to live here
Then they died by the hands of the men who formed the counties
And they took away their land and made the boundaries
Goverened with a heavy hand and you….

Chorus:
Can almost hear that sad song, of that old Indian
Crying for his home, along the waters edge
Climbing mountains to escape the laws of white man
Walking softly in the rain & talking to the wind

They were trusting when they taught us how to live here
Then they scattered to the wind
Leaving only tears behind them
And an old forgotten art and all their memories
Dying with a broken heart and you,

Can almost hear that song, of that old Indian
Long for his home, along the waters edge
Climbing mountains to escape the laws of white man
Walking softly in the rain & talking to the wind

Produced by Tony Rice.
Recorded by Steve Chandler at Hilltop Studios and Bill Wolf at Bias Studios.
Mixed and mastered by Bill Wolf at Bias Studios.
Photography by David McClister.
Design by Rachael Sullivan.
Notes by Barry Bales.

www.DonnaHughes.com
http://www.MySpace.com/DonnaHughes

Musicians: Tony Rice, Sam Bush, Wyatt Rice, Tim Stafford, Bryn Bright, Mike Bub, Rob Ickes, Scott Vestal, Ron Stewart, Rickie Simpkins, Wayne Benson, Donna Hughes, Kati Penn, and Obil Perez.

Harmonies offered by: Alison Krauss, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Sonya Isaacs, Rhonda Vincent, Carl Jackson, Alecia Nugent, Lona Heins, and Kati Penn.

Thanks to:

My parents: always supportive, patient, encouraging, motivating. My fans, who buy the albums and attend the shows. In honor of my cousin, Douglas Michael Hughes, who died way before his time.

In memory of my Daddy, who I did not know would not be here for the release of this album. He was instrumental in getting my music off the ground. He was burdened financially for many years so I could do this. Daddy worked night and day to sell my CDs and spread the word about me, my music, and the dream I had to succeed. He and Mama never stopped encouraging and motivating me. Daddy believed in striving to achieve goals, no matter how many obstacles are in the path ahead. He believed anything was possible, as long as you believed in it.

I love and live for my Mom, and am grateful for her unconditional love and undying devotion to me. She believes I can, even when I don’t. Thanks to Penni McDaniel for all of her countless efforts to help me reach this point. Thanks to Carl Jackson, for all his knowledge and help, and to Rhonda Vincent for her huge contribution. Thanks to all the musicians and singers, for their beautiful interpretations of my songs. Thanks to Mary Chapin Carpenter for agreeing to be a part of this. Thanks to Alison Krauss for changing my life forever. Thanks to Tony Rice and Ken Irwin, who made all of this possible. It was an honor and highlight of my life to have the opportunity to work with Tony Rice, a living legend and genius, who has an endless supply of wisdom to offer. Thanks to David Macias, who is a superhero in disguise, and my new booking team at Third Coast Artists.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Tony Rice would like to thank:
Billy Wolf, for his genius; the Santa Cruz Guitar Company; and D’Aquisto strings.

Tony Rice played Santa Cruz guitars exclusively in the making of this album.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This CD contains experiences, memories, thoughts, perspectives, ideas, and feelings of sadness, joy, fear, love, and even a little anger, developed from events that have affected me or someone I know. Anything that moves me, moves me to write. What I enjoy most in this world is trying to capture feelings and perspectives in song. I believe that is the best way to relate to other people. If I can just make one person feel like they can relate to what I am singing about, or feel that they are not going through something alone, I feel I have accomplished my mission.

I wrote 12 of the 14 songs on this album. There is a vast range of sounds and styles, which I am very proud of. Having overcome a tough time, when I realized that the music I create is “different from anything else” and when I struggled to categorize it, I now embrace and even welcome that fact. Where it once took courage to be myself, it now finally feels comfortable. Alison Krauss helped me to feel this comfort, and for that, I will be forever thankful. Tony Rice has also assisted in this musical comfort to become myself.

The songs tell many stories and take many emotional journeys. A powerful moment for me occurs in my song “Scattered to the Wind” – a story about losing a parent. The phrase, “It took a lifetime to find all the things she wanted, and a day for all those hands to come and carry them away,” reminds the listener of just how short life is, as it describes the sadness of someone having to sell at auction all of her mother’s cherished things after her passing. The lesson within the song is that material things are insignificant in the scheme of things, regardless of how miserable we might think we are without them sometimes.

Another story told in song, “Letters” describes the many letters mailed between my grandmother and I over many years. It reflects the depth of my sadness upon finding, after she died, that she had saved all the letters. I took them and put them with all the letters I saved from her. My favorite part of the song is where it says, “When she went to heaven, I cried so many tears, but she’s still in these letters, after all these years.” Today we rarely express ourselves in heartfelt letters that can be left behind – more often it is with short, quickly-deleted emails.  Thus the sad irony I felt when I realized how lucky I am that I have those letters…

After reading the history of the county I live in, and having learned much about my own Indian heritage and ancestry, I was moved to write a song about the struggle of the Native American upon losing control of his homeland. I am especially proud of the song that resulted, “Talking to the Wind,” because I got to record it with my hero, Tony Rice. Getting to do a duet with Tony Rice is not an experience I will ever forget.  We had been in the studio 10 hours one day, 12 the next, and in the 14th hour we spent in the studio on the third and final day of that session, I asked Tony if he would mind sitting down to play it with me. Luckily for me, he still felt like it, and “Talking to the Wind” was born. Had Tony been too tired to hang in that last crazy hour, that song may have never been. He mashed it!

I have always been fascinated by the passing of time, as many of my songs through the years have revealed. As mortals, we are bound, motivated, and controlled by time. My favorite song that I have ever written on the subject, that illustrates the constant changing process of living, is called “Father Time.” Consisting of haunting minor chords, it might remind the listener to stop and be more grateful for each moment, each day.

“Sad Old Train,” “Too Many,” “Where Are You Darlin’?,” and “Not Anymore” are all songs of love lost and heartache that resulted. All with different outcomes, I hope that each song strengthens anyone who has experienced a broken heart lately. Rhonda Vincent and Carl Jackson really contribute a great deal with their harmony on “Too Many,” making it one of my most favorite moments on the album.

“Not Anymore” describes the moment when someone finally realizes that they could actually survive without the person who broke their heart. My Daddy always thought it was my best song. “Where Are You Darlin’?” is written from the perspective of someone who has been rejected, and is realizing how big the world can seem when you are alone. “One More Time” depicts a relationship that is not getting anywhere and is regretfully over, and recalls fondly a time when the relationship was wonderful. The combined experience of Alison Krauss and Mary Chapin Carpenter makes for a heavenly harmony on this song, and Tony Rice and Tim Stafford’s guitars will hopefully leave the listener floating in mid-air.

Both “What I’m Looking For” and “Hold On” are songs that most everyone can relate to at some point in their lives. They are very different in style, instrumentation, and sound, but portray a common feeling of sadness – the longing that comes when someone is chasing a dream, realizing that, no matter how many obstacles get in the way, giving up is not an option. “Hold On,” according to Tony Rice, is the song that won him as a fan, and sparked his interest enough to want to produce this album.  I was delighted to be able to record Tim Stafford’s “Find Me Out on a Mountaintop,” because I have always loved this song. It takes the listener on a quiet vacation. The style I captured on this song is very different from Blue Highway’s version. It would be a great song no matter what style it was recorded in – it is simply beautiful.

I remember Cyndi Lauper’s version of “Time After Time” being popular, and thought it would be really neat to record all these years later it in a bluegrass style. I love it when bluegrass bands do rock covers!

This album was the product of many years of dreaming, of working toward the goal of being on a record label and making music my full-time focus.  My parents made many unselfish sacrifices to help me reach this point, and my Dad is no longer with us. I am more dedicated than ever to making my music the best that it can be, to carry on what he helped me to begin.  He believed that anything was possible.

I hope that each song on this album has its own style and makes its own statement. It is an encyclopedia of the heart, describing many of life’s trials I have either experienced or observed. I hope that there would be songs you could become familiar with instantly, or be touched by.

This album would never have happened if it hadn’t have been for Tony Rice, who became impressed with my earlier work and was crucial in getting my music into the hands of the right people. I have been privileged to have worked with such a musical hero on this project. His ideas are brilliant. I enjoyed the colorful and charming personality of Steve Chandler at Hilltop Studios. He makes singing eight straight hours a lot easier, with his constant shenanigans and encouragement. I was also very happy to have worked with Bill Wolf. He is a technological genius, and can make someone sound like a star who isn’t. I am so thankful for the helpful knowledge, and guidance I have received from Ken Irwin.

–Donna Hughes

~~~~~~~~~~~

Not long ago, I was over at the home of my friends Steve and Kathi Fox, and they had Donna Hughes’ self-produced record on the hi-fi. After a few songs, I had to ask “Who is that?” Kathi started telling me about Donna, that she was relatively local – living just an hour or so away. The more I listened to her music that day, the more I heard in it.

In Donna I heard something that was down to earth, with a definitive southern flavor to it. And yet there was something different about her voice and the way she structured her own music as she wrote it that lent itself to a more flexible, adventurous approach. I heard that flexibility early on, and I thought she’d be receptive to it – and she was.

The idea of producing this album intrigued me, because Donna is unique enough as a writer and performer to establish herself as a distinctive voice both within today’s bluegrass scene and beyond it. I thought that, with some different production ideas, we could create an interesting album with its own sensibility. Her music really lends itself to a more fluid, laid-back approach from the bass and rhythm guitar. There are some more traditional-sounding, straight-ahead bluegrass performances here as well, but they are counter-balanced by tracks that put her in a separate boat from any of her peers.

It was a deliberate decision on my part not to categorize her or put her into any pre-existing genre – I hate categorization. Music is music. In the case of Donna, that was an easy choice to make, but the mechanics of implementing it were not always easy to execute. We simply came up with instrumentation that would suit each tune, and worked it out from there. She’d send me demos of things she’d written, and sometimes she’d play them on the piano – not a standard bluegrass instrument. But, the more I heard her piano playing and how it colored her songs, the more I liked it and the more I felt it had to be heard on this album.

Now, I’m not the kind of producer who carries around a clipboard with lists of songs, musicians, solo orders, backups, etc. I believe that the best music is made when the musicians know the basic structure and someone just kicks it off. This album was on very much on the fly – even the order of solos was done without prearrangements. It would be a nod over to Rickie Simpkins or Rob Ickes….

Donna is very personable with her tunes – she writes from the soul. As a performer, she has many avenues to choose from. From one gig to the next, it could be different. If she’s booked into a venue with a really good Steinway, she ought to use it. But other dates she could take a straight-ahead bluegrass band to back her up. That flexibility is a good thing. That’s also the hard part of producing her: you want to illuminate what is recognizable and classic about her music – to make clear her very strong ties to bluegrass – while remaining true to what is so special and distinct about Donna.

In whatever musical context she chooses, Donna has the potential to go as far as she wants. I truly believe this album is going to amaze everybody, regardless of category or genre they want to fit it into. As we were recording, I remember telling her, “This album will be your calling card, and will open doors for you that you cannot imagine.” I believed that then, and now, as I listen to the finished product, I believe it more than ever.

–Tony Rice, October 2006

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Good things turn up in the strangest places. One rare fall Saturday at home, I was listening to “Goin’ Across the Mountain,” a bluegrass show on WNCW out of Spindale, NC. I don’t remember what I was doing exactly. I do remember that all of a sudden, I was drawn to the song being played on the radio enough to stop whatever it was. I’ve listened to and played bluegrass music as long as I can remember – I thought I knew everybody. But this was something fresh, sung by a voice I hadn’t heard before. I immediately got on the phone to DJ Dennis Jones and asked who that was I had just heard. He informed me that it was Miss Donna Hughes from the great state of North Carolina, and this was a CD she had put out herself, having written every song on it. Well now…it just so happened that our band was about to head into the studio to begin a new project and we needed some material. This one could definitely work. After getting her number, I called and left a message asking her to send me all the material she had. I wasn’t prepared for what I received. Not one, but three CDs full of great new songs written by Donna.

Donna’s songs are a wonderful breath of fresh air in the world of bluegrass today. She has the rare ability to take song topics that others have overdone and write about them from a new perspective. Even songs about lost love are given new life at her hand. Donna also has a particular gift for writing songs that bridge the gap between “traditional” and “contemporary” content. Very few bluegrass listeners of today were born in a cabin or were raised plowing with mules, but a lot of our parents and grandparents were. A number of the songs Donna writes speak of a young, modern generation with close ties to rural life of the past. This is a particular segment of the modern bluegrass listener/performer population that Donna represents well. You may reasonably expect to find CDs from Coldplay and Brad Paisley in their collection next to one from Larry Sparks.

She also brings that sensibility to her performing style. She has an easy, almost conversational vocal delivery. And the addition of her piano playing is an appropriate extension of her vision and tastes – embracing the musical world of today while keeping closely rooted in tradition.

It is my sincere hope that work such as this from Donna Hughes becomes much more prevalent in bluegrass and acoustic music. The music and the listener will both be better for it. Enjoy.

Barry Bales
Mosheim, TN

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CD label:
Donna Hughes
Gaining Wisdom
Rounder 11661-0554-2
p & © 2007 Rounder Records Corp.
Manufactured in the USA.