Donna Hughes
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Donna Hughes


Band Americana Bluegrass


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"Recent Press from"

4/2/07 Alison Krauss has spawned an entire generation of sound-alike bluegrass artists: soft, nasal, honeyed and sweet, and pianist/songstress Donna Hughes is surely proof of that. The liner notes suggest that this debut will blow the listener away with its freshness and originality, but, instead, a strange sense of deja vu jumps out right from the opening track, "One More Time." Hughes is actually joined by both Krauss and Mary Chapin Carpenter here, creating soft harmonic fusion. And it's almost impossible to separate the voices or the style.

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.

The best thing about bluegrass is its evolution as new voices carry a sound into new directions or interpret a style a new way. Hughes has enough talent to do just that - eventually. At this juncture, she's got good material, a great voice full of sincerity and passion, and the superb talents of musicians like Tony Rice, who produced, on guitar, Scot Vestal on banjo, Ron Stewart on fiddle and numerous others, who make every song brilliant. As a songwriter, her poignant lyrics ring true. Maybe someday she'll emerge with a sound that's even more distinctly her own.


"More press from"

3/15/07 - 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.)


"CD Review"

3/1/07 - "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." - Birmingham Press


Somewhere In Time - 2001
Same Old Me - year?
Gaining Wisdom - 2007



Donna Hughes has written well over 250 songs, inspired by everything from family experiences, to heart break. Donna grew up part of a close knit family on a small farm in Trinity, North Carolina. Her musical odyssey began when she started playing melodies on a piano at age three. The first song she ever played was "You Light Up My Life," and then shortly after "When the Saints Come Marching In," at age 3 with her right hand. Her parents were excited and pleased, but would grimly discover that they would have many years to endure of Donna making lots of disturbing noise with that piano. Many interrupted television programs and phone calls later, her parents would be thrilled to suddenly hear her composing her own music.
Shy about singing, and never singing in public until after graduating from college, Donna first began singing in her church, Westfield Baptist. She has served as Church Pianist for the small church, attended by her family for many generations.

Donna plays guitar also, and has entered and won 1st place at many bluegrass competitions in the vocal category. She was once a member of two North Carolina based bands, "Wildwood" and "Different Directions" In 1996, Donna recorded a demo album of songs she had written, but didn't have the knowledge of the music industry to promote it at that time. So she worked harder, writing nine of the songs on her first bluegrass album, Somewhere In Time, including the title cut. The album, released in June of 2001, received air play and recognition worldwide, and landed her great reviews in many popular bluegrass & acoustic music publications. A couple of her original tunes were selected for "DJ's Hot Picks" in several issues of Bluegrass Now Magazine. Donna's second album, Same Old Me contains 21 original songs. In her quest for a record deal, and/or getting a song cut, she left no stone unturned. Shortly before Christmas of 2003, Donna received a phone call out of the blue from Tony Rice. He had been given a copy of Donna's Same Old Me album. Impressed with the fact that she wrote all 21 songs, he asked if he could produce her next album, which eventually led to her signing a recording contract with Rounder Records. He stated it was simply a "box car load of great tunes." Ironically at that time, her car CD changer was filled with Tony Rice albums. To Donna, it was such a welcome relief to get recognition from such an extraordinary musical hero, after all of her hard work. Donna's new album was released on Rounder Records in late February 2007, produced by the legendary Mr. Rice and a host of special guest including Alison Krauss, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Carl Jackson, Sonya Isaacs and many more. Tony Rice later stated that "She is an artist that has the potential to go as far in music as she wants," and called her Same Old Me album, a "21-song Masterpiece." Donna was chosen in 2006 for the third year in a row, to perform at the "International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) Songwriter Showcase. Donna was also chosen for the second year in a row to appear on the IBMA Master's Stage for the Songwriting Workshop. Barry Bales, bass player for Alison Krauss & Union Station heard Donna while listening to WNCW, in Spindale, NC. Barry called the radio station and to get her phone number from DJ, Dennis Jones. Barry then contacted Donna telling her that he "really liked what he had heard." He requested she send her songs for their band's consideration. Donna has been a huge fan of Alison Krauss and Union Station for many years, and was truly honored that they took notice of her work. The song the band recorded was My Poor Old Heart, which appears on the album Lonely Runs Both Ways. The album received a Grammy for "Country Album of the Year" in 2005. The band later performed My Poor Old Heart at the 2006 CMA Awards Show. Donna songs have also been recorded by other artists, including the 2005 Country Colgate Showdown winner, Heather Shelley, who recorded Donna's song "Not Anymore." According to Donna, "Heather's abilities are absolutely beyond amazing, and I am certainly rooting for her to become a huge star." The Seldom Scene, long-time veterans of bluegrass, recently recorded Donna's song Sad Old Train.

Some of Donna's greatest influences include: Tony Rice, Alison Krauss, Blue Highway, Alan Jackson, Tori Amos, Bela Fleck, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Sting, Elvis, Del McCoury, Patty Loveless, Classical Music, Dolly Parton, Van Halen, Hank Williams, Suzy Bogguss, hip-hop.