Donna Ulisse is a superb, celebrated and oft-covered singer-songwriter whose ears and heart are finely attuned to the bluegrass mainstream. On her twelfth album her magic touch with lyrics and melody continues to impress.
Ulisse wrote or cowrote eight of these 11 songs, and their power lies in the way she cuts straight to the heart and soul of the sort of everyday dreams, desires, celebrations and disappointments that we nearly all contend with at one time or another.
The title tune, “Livin’ Large (In A Little Bitty Town),” which she cowrote with Jerry Salley, is a finely detailed homage to the healing and sustaining spirit of community in a place where you know and trust your neighbors. “Hard To Find The Good Here Anymore,” on the other hand, is a wistful commentary on how the dismal state of world affairs can filter down into our everyday lives like a gray miasma.
“The End Of Crazy” (cowritten with Rick Stanley) is an extraordinary, and extraordinarily uplifting, song about rediscovering yourself after being laid low and robbed of your self-worth by a toxic relationship. “Turn My Heart” (a cowrite with Rebekah Long Speer and producer Doyle Lawson) is a more complicated love lament whose mystery and ambivalence make it all the more intriguing.
The list of gems, so persuasive in their honesty and particularity, continues. It includes a pair of uplifting gospel tunes: “Harp With Golden Strings” (Mac McCarty and Jimmy Keith) and Ulisse’s own “Don’t Bury This Bible With Me.”