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- August 2010 - Rounder Records releases "Hellos, Goodbyes, and Butterflies" to Radio and the album via AirPlayDirect.com and it reaches #1 on Airplay Direct (Bluegrass/Folk) for number of radio downloads.
- August 2009 - Donna Hughes Wins AWARD for BLUEGRASS ALBUM OF THE YEAR by Just Plain Folks - read the Bluegrass Blog to learn more!
- June 12, 2009 - TylerPaper.com - Overton Bluegrass Festival - read it here
- Bluegrass Journal Review by Travis Tackett >- "Donna Hughes Gaining Wisdom is her debut CD on Rounder Records. The CD reveals an artist of tremendous depth and talent. From Hughes’ contributions to the project, that include writing 12 of the 14 songs on the project, Tony Rice’s masterful production and an all-star cast of supporting musicians, you’d be hard pressed to find a more impressive debut album.
Cover of Bluegrass Now Magazine - August 2007
- The Loneome Road Review - ".....Tony Rice obviously put his heart into helping make this record possible. His guitar expertise compliments Donna’s record in the same way a good book is complimented by rain upon the window and an excellent cup of coffee." read more
-MUSIC ROW - "There is also an uncontested DisCovery Award winner in this stack of platters. Donna Hughes is a songwriter that you all need to pay heed to, even you non bluegrassers. DONNA HUGHES/Bottom Of A Glass / Writer: Donna Hughes; Producer: Tony Rice; Publisher: Flying Hound, BMI; Rounder (track) — Hughes is the newest female sensation in bluegrass. She’s not only an expressive vocalist, but an extraordinary songwriter as well. She shines on this debut single, a lickety-split cautionary tale of a wayward male. Her instrumental support on this Gaining Wisdom CD is jaw dropping. In addition to producer Rice, the cast includes Sam Bush, Rob Ickes, Scott Vestal and other top-drawer pickers, not to mention such harmony vocalists as Carl Jackson, Alecia Nugent, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Sonya Isaacs, Alison Krauss and Rhonda Vincent. Buy and believe."
Black Rose Acoustic Society Review - "I fell in love with this album the first time I popped it in my CD player. Donna Hughes grew up in tiny Trinidad, North Carolina, and has been well known behind the scenes in Nashville as a songwriter. Donna was trained in classical piano, but has hung in bluegrass circles for years, writing songs recorded by Alison Krauss, The Seldom Scene, and others. Donna wrote twelve of the fourteen tracks on Gaining Wisdom which was produced by Tony Rice and features harmony vocals from Alison Krauss, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Rhonda Vincent, Carl Jackson and others. When you hear some of Donna’s piano blending with Rice’s melodic guitar, Scott Vestal’s banjo, and Rob Ickes' Dobro, you’ll believe that the piano is a bluegrass instrument. There are so many great songs on this album. Sad Old Train is a straight-ahead bluegrass number about love lost and the subsequent heartache. Bottom of a Glass tells the tragic tale of popular high school star succumbing to alcoholism and a ruined life. Letters describes Donna’s bittersweet feelings upon finding that her grandmother had saved all the letters Donna had written her over the years. Scattered to the Wind is a story of losing a parent, but also the insignificance of material things in the greater scheme of things. Donna writes from her soul, and takes you on an emotional journey with each song. This album also includes Donna’s version of Tim Stafford’s Find Me Out on a Mountain Top, and a bluegrass version of Cyndi Lauper’s Time After Time, which is a delight. I highly recommend this CD."~ 7/5/07
- Joe Ross Review - BLUEGRASS MUSIC PROFILES
- 6/20/07 - NEWS-RECORD - GREENSBORO, NC - article and video
- 5/22/07 COUNTRYSTARSONLINE.com - Review by Jim Moulton - "It might be the best bluegrass CD of the year. In a pop world of cookie cutter top forty music, this disc is pure creative genius. This is a must have for bluegrass lovers." CLICK TO READ ENTIRE REVIEW
- 5/22/07 - JOE ROSS REVIEW - "Donna’s songs have potential to become contemporary bluegrass, acoustic country or folk hits."
- June issue of Bluegrass Now - DJ HOT PICS - Jerry Mills, Rocky Mountain Bluegrass KCKK, Denver, CO chose "Sad Old Train"
- 4/2/07 COUNTRYSTANDARDTIME.COM Hughes' version of Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time," however, would stop any listener: it's solid and rich - better than the original, and Hughes' original "Not Anymore" with her on piano has to be the heartbreaker - flawless. read more
- 3/15/07 CDInsight.com - Heralded as one of the best new singer-songwriters in bluegrass, Donna Hughes’ debut on the reputable Rounder Records label is a significant career milestone for the creative and talented young woman from central North Carolina. When I first heard her independently released albums years ago, I knew she was inspired, motivated, and headed for great success. She just needed the right amount of luck. Enter guitarist Tony Rice who also heard “something that was down to earth, with a definitive southern flavor to it….that implied a broader, more adventurous approach.” This album, produced by Rice, includes four new arrangements of original songs that Hughes previously released on her own “Same Old Me” project. Eight additional originals are on this “Gaining Wisdom” album, along with two covers (“Time After Time” and “Find Me Out On A Mountain Top”).
As I’ve said before, Donna’s songs have potential to become contemporary bluegrass, acoustic country or folk hits. Classically trained on piano, Hughes also has a strong affinity for bluegrass music. She has performed with regional bands, Wildwood and Different Directions. Her adorned and relaxed presentation is incorporated with the modern instrumental consciousness of such stellar acoustic technicians as Tony Rice, Tim Stafford, Rob Ickes, Mike Bub, Sam Bush, Ron Stewart, Wyatt Rice, Bryn Davies, Rickie Simpkins, Wayne Benson, Scott Vestal, Kati Penn, and Obil Perez. To accompany her dreamy singing, we hear harmonies from Carl Jackson, Alecia Nugent, Sonya Isaacs, Mary Chapin Carpenter, John Carroll, Kati Penn, Rhonda Vincent, and Lona Heins. This is a very impressive cast that infuses her music with a great deal of enchantment. Hughes writes and sings moving and sensitive personal songs with a relaxed, refreshing, contemporary flair. Introspective themes of lost love, sorrow, longing, heartache, and optimism are covered.
In her song, “Letters,” Donna admits to having a lot to say in correspondence with her grandmother, and it becomes apparent that dreams and aspirations are in the Hughes’ family. “Where Are You Darlin'?” is a tale of anguish in which she sings, “Along with all my dreams/I can't go on, I can’t go back.” And the song “Too Many” expresses “I just can’t love you anymore.” Four of the tracks provide nice showcases for her piano playing, with the lean arrangement of “Talking to the Wind” being a particularly unique and lyrical way to end this euphonious album with a nod to her own Native American ancestry. (Joe Ross, Roseburg, OR.)
Album was featured on I-Tunes home page and country section of New Releases
- 3/4/07 - Billboard.com - 3/1/07 - Mountain Times - 3/1/07 - Birmingham Press - CD Review - "She's written more than 250 songs in a little more than a decade, including compositions for Alison Krauss and The Seldom Scene. And though this is being billed as the national debut of Donna Hughes, she's been around the bluegrass scene for awhile as can be seen by the A-list cast of contributors to this disc. Krauss and Mary Chapin Carpenter can be heard harmonizing on the tender album opener One More Time, and other guests include mandolin man Sam Bush and singer Rhonda Vincent on one of the album's best cuts, Bottom of a Glass. Gaining Wisdom also prominently features the great guitarist Tony Rice who produced the disc and is all over most of the songs. There are some superb originals here, particularly the poignant Scattered to the Wind, and a couple of well chosen covers, including Cyndi Lauper's Time After Time." 2/07 - USA TODAY - Find Me Out on a Mountain Top, Donna Hughes: Sumptuously doleful tune that sounds like — but isn’t — a century-old Appalachian lament.
2/27/07 - EFolk Music's Editor's Pic
2/27/07 - Country Music News "Daryle Singletary, Elana James, Donna Hughes Lead New Releases"
2/27/07 - The Courier Tribune, Asheboro, NC read Word doc file
2/27/07 - (Rounder) - Tour Dates Announced in Support of Gaining Wisdom
2/17/07 - High Point University News
1/05/07 - Cybergrass
1/07 - Press Release - Rounder Records
Songwriter Donna Hughes' Gaining Wisdom Proudced by Tony Rice
1/07 - Bluegrass Blog
Randolph Guide, 11/9/05
By Larry Penkava - Staff writer
You can bet Donna Hughes will be glued to her TV set on Tuesday, Nov. 15, to watch the Country Music Association (CMA) award show. Alison Krauss and Union Station, who are nominees for three awards, will be performing a track from their latest CD, "Lonely Runs Both Ways." The song, "My Poor Old Heart," was written by Hughes. The Trinity resident said she was at the International Bluegrass Music Awards week at Nashville recently when she saw Jerry Douglas of Union Station. "He said they're doing my song at the CMA awards show," Hughes said last week.
She said she could have gone to the show, which will be held at New York's Madison Square Garden, but would have had just one ticket. "I decided to stay home with my family and watch it," she explained. "I want to see their faces."
Getting her song on an album of an established bluegrass group was just one step in jumpstarting Hughes' career in the business. She's signed a recording contract with Rounder Records and is connected with a music publisher.
As she finds herself on the cusp of success, Hughes is expecting her first Rounder album to be released next spring. It's 16 tracks, with 14 of them her own compositions. The album is produced by Tony Rice, a legendary acoustic guitarist. She had gotten one of her self-produced albums into his hands last year and he liked her sound so much he agreed to add a comment to the cover notes.
Hughes said she thought that was the end of it as far as Rice was concerned, but about six months later he called her and said he wanted to produce her next album. The studio sessions for the album have been completed, and Hughes was delighted that Mary Chapin Carpenter and several bluegrass veterans agreed to add harmony and instrumental sounds to some of the cuts.
While growing up, Hughes said, she took music lessons but was more interested in playing by ear than learning notes. She did, however, become acquainted with many of the classic composers. She said she can sit down and play "Moonlight Sonata" and "Clair de Lune," among other classics of the past. "My classical training sometimes spills over into my music," Hughes said. "I was criticized early on, but later it became the reason my music was noticed." For several years, Hughes said, she attended the IBMA week, passing out about 200 of her CDs each year in hopes of being noticed. "This was the first year I didn't have to hand out CDs," she said. "People were giving theirs to me."
She said IBMA is important because you can meet so many people in the music business. "Things happened for me because deejays played my CDs," said Hughes. "I pushed and pushed it on my own label, Running Dog, and finally got it in the right hands." Working on an album at a major recording studio is different from self-producing, Hughes said.
"There's more of a thought process, more things to consider," she said. "There's more collaborative thinking."
Even deciding on the title of the CD involves more of a marketing strategy, Hughes said. And Rice, the producer, "changed a couple of endings on songs. But I want to be thankful for someone of his expertise.
"When someone gives suggestions, and they're farther alone in the business and in experience, you just try to honor their ideas, whether you agree with them or not." For Hughes, songwriting has to come from inspiration. "With writing, the mood has to strike," she said. "If you want to write badly, you can write all the time. But I write better under pressure. It was somewhat ironic that Krauss had shown interest in Hughes' music.
"My first memory of (Krauss) was in 1990," Hughes said. "I was a senior in high school riding a horse with my Walkman on and heard her on the radio. I became a fan of hers." After Hughes began singing publicly, she said, she "was afraid to sing (Krauss's) songs to avoid comparison. So I wrote my own songs." Now Hughes has a fan in Krauss. "I'm really honored that they'd do that for me on the CMAs," she said. "I'm highly excited about it."
11/23/2005 - Randolph Guide
By Larry Penkava - Staff writer
It was a big step in Donna Hughes's music career when a song she wrote, "My Poor Old Heart," was performed by Alison Krauss and Union Station at the CMA Awards Show last week on CBS. It was one of 16 songs on the group's latest CD, "Lonely Runs Both Ways." Krauss was nominated for Best Female Vocalist, Krauss and Union Station were nominees for Vocal Group of the Year and a member of the band, Jerry Douglas, won the award for Best Musician. About two hours into the program, Krauss and Union Station appeared on the stage of Madison Square Garden for their performance. There were a few seconds of panic when Krauss's microphone apparently wasn't working, but the problem was soon corrected. "It was kind of panicky," Hughes, who watched the show with family members, said of the glitch. She credited Krauss with remaining composed until the sound of her voice came through. "She's good under pressure," said Hughes the next day from her Trinity home. "The song was well performed. I was elated. It was weird watching a show like that when a song I wrote on my little piano ... is being performed on a great big stage in front of all those people." A bluegrass singer and songwriter who has signed with Rounder Records and expects to have her own CD out in the spring, Hughes had gotten one of her self-produced recordings into the hands of one of Krauss's band members. "My Poor Old Heart" was the last song chosen for "Lonely Runs Both Ways."
Hughes said she felt fortunate that the song fit what Krauss was looking for in her album. The track could easily have gone to another song. "I think small (in goal setting), take baby steps," she said. "I never thought I'd go this far." She said one of her first goals was to get air time for her recordings on "one small station. Then on many stations." Having air time on the Country Music Association Awards Show didn't even make her list. "It's a neat feeling, it really is," she said. "My cousins (watching with her) were kind of speechless. I was chattering away, not really knowing what I was saying, and they were trying to tune me out and hear (Krauss)." Hughes, who teaches gymnastics classes, had told her students that her song was going to be performed on prime time. Her cousin, Lisa Thompson, a teacher at Farmer Elementary School, had it announced on the intercom.
"All the kids were excited about it," Hughes said. Since she found out that Krauss was going to use her song on the album, Hughes has been in contact with the established star, having lunched with her in Nashville. They've also talked on the phone, and Hughes has saved messages on her answering machine of Krauss and one of the band members, Barry Bales. Krauss has also given credit to Hughes at her concerts, acknowledging the songwriter when performing "My Poor Old Heart."
Once in concert at Greensboro, Krauss had Hughes' parents, Ed and Loraye Hughes, to stand in recognition of their 34th anniversay. Krauss also mentioned Hughes at MerleFest and at the International Bluegrass Music Association awards show in Nashville. "She's a dear person and doesn't forget people," Hughes said of Krauss.
Larry Penkava is a staff writer for The Randolph Guide.
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