Editors' pick

Sierra Hull

Folk/Bluegrass
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Editorial Review

SIERRA HULL AND HIGHWAY 111
Album review: "Daybreak"

When the three teenagers in Nickel Creek became string-band superstars 10 years ago, they inspired a generation of even younger musicians to pick up bluegrass instruments and practice fiendishly.

The fruits of that movement are now ripening in such players as Sarah Jarosz, Amanda Shaw and Sierra Hull. The latter is only 19, but she has just released her second album, “Daybreak,” co-produced by a member of Alison Krauss & Union Station. The Krauss influence is unmistakable, but Hull puts her own stamp on that sound with her aggressive mandolin picking and girlish soprano.

The 10 vocal numbers and two instrumentals — seven by Hull and five by contemporary Nashville songwriters — are mostly tales of first love and heartache. On Hull’s “Tell Me Tomorrow,” the contrast between her tough-as-nails playing and her easily bruised singing perfectly reinforce the two sides of adolescent romance.

On Kevin McClung’s “Easy Come, Easy Go,” she claims that she’s past that first heartbreak. “I’m not a child anymore,” Hull sings. But there’s still a hint of hurt beneath the title’s brave claim. It’s that lingering childishness that gives Hull’s vocals a rare quality. As a picker, though, she’s already the equal of the adults around her, including Bryan Sutton, Stuart Duncan, Dan Tyminski and Randy Kohrs.

— Geoffrey Himes, June 10, 2011