Donna Ulisse: A Trinity of Genres

Donna Ulisse

Donna Ulisse

Today on The Music Room, our guest Donna Ulisse confesses she may be something of a workaholic. Well, she’s certainly keeping herself busy. Tomorrow, she has a photography session with Bryan Sutton for their new album, and will pick up a copy of her new book, The Songwriter in Me, from the press. Given the prevalence of her own lyrics in that book, she is making a 24 song CD to include with its release, and is spending 2 hours a day composing an accompanying workbook. She has an upcoming songwriting session with Jerry Sally, and in July will continue her monthly collaboration with Songwriting Escape, spending three days in July, September, and October in Yorktown, VA, Texas, and Chicago, respectively.

She’s also touring with her band The Poor Mountain Boys, and continuing to write songs.

Hailing from Nashville, TN, she says her hometown is not complete without its songwriters, and even her husband, Rick Stanley, has helped her co-write multiple songs, including “Wilma Walker,” based on a billboard the two saw, and prompting a discussion on titles, pronunciation difficulties, and how Doyle Lawson gets hug-tackled.

Her 2013 album Showing My Roots explores the various musical influences on her career, and we even delve into her past as a 1990s “country diva,” exploring her challenges, regrets, triumphs, and eventual shift to bluegrass and gospel.

So we are certainly grateful that she could appear on the show today, and we are very excited to hear that she is coming to DE for the first time…this Saturday, March 21st, at Crown Plaza Wilmington North, for the Wilmington Wintergrass Festival: 2 shows at 2pm and 8pm and a 90 minute songwriting workshop at 3pm open to anyone with a paid band. Take a little time from your schedule, and come check it out…you won’t regret it!

The Interview

Donna Ulisse
(Recorded live 3/17/15; host: Mandorichard), 31:12, 30.0 MB.

The Music

The following music is heard in this episode of The Music Room:

  • Artist / Song / Album (or note) / Date / Notes
  • Donna Ulisse / Showin’ My Roots / Showin’ My Roots / 2013
  • Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver / Wilma Walker / In Session / 2015
  • Donna Ulisse / Everything Has Changed / Walk this Mountain Down / 2008
  • Donna Ulisse (with Sam Bush) / Take this Hammer (Excerpt) / Showin’ My Roots / 2013

Photo courtesy of


Pure Poison and Family Gospel

Sarah HarrisIt’s a familiar story. Mike and Lisa meet in church, fall in love, get married, have three kids, give their oldest daughter guitar lessons…

And by 2011 have started touring the continental US as a family bluegrass group.

Not so familiar then. Today on the Music Room we talked to Sarah Harris, a “ray of sunshine” from Callahan, FL and lead singer and mandolinist of the Trinity River Band.

The Trinity River Band is a bluegrass/gospel group that incorporates various genres into their music, including Irish American folk and 80s rock. For this versatility, they have earned worldwide radio broadcasts, and “Better than Blue,” from their eponymous 2014 album, peaked on the Bluegrass Today Weekly National Survey at #4.

Within that album appears Sarah’s song “Pure Poison,” which she wrote for her brother John, the group’s banjo player who also wields a variety of musical instruments.

We also spoke with Sarah about the influence of gospel on country, traveling on the road as a family, her appearance on Alex Rutledge’s TV show Bloodlines, and Brianna, the youngest member, who plays the fiddle and turns 13 tomorrow. All the best!

Be sure to stay posted; they tour the Northeast this summer, and their new album Heartstrings comes out this May.

The Interview

Sarah Harris
(Recorded live 02/24/15; host: Mandorichard), 29:59, 29.3 MB.

The Music

The following music is heard in this episode of The Music Room:

  • Artist / Song / Album (or note) / Date / Notes
  • Trinity River Band / Bearfoot Breakdown / Better than Blue / 2014
  • Trinity River Band / Pure Poison / Better than Blue / 2014
  • Trinity River Band / Near the Cross (excerpt) / Bluegrass on the Plains Festival / 2013 (Excerpt)
  • Trinity River Band / Better than Blue / Better than Blue/ 2014

Donna Ulisse: A Song to Lean On

Donna Ulisse
I’ve been a fan of Donna Ulisse since I first heard her 2007 CD When I Look Back. Since then she’s released five new CDs and a gospel compilation.

Donna and her husband, Rick Stanley, tour with their band The Poor Mountain Boys and have made friends with audiences from St. Petersburg, Russia, to St. Petersburg, Florida. They put on a great stage show–even if it’s pouring rain and the audience is desperately trying to stay dry scattered around the campground under tents–as I witnessed at the 2011 Podunk Festival (East Hartford, CT).

She’s also written hit bluegrass songs for the likes of Del McCoury, Claire Lynch, Darin and Brooke Aldridge, and many others.

In some ways, you could say that she’s on to phases three and four of her career. In the 1980s, she moved to Nashville from the Hampton, Virginia, area. She worked as a demo singer, sang in churches, sang in a variety of bands working in Tennessee and Virginia, and even sang in a western swing band. In phase two (Country Diva), she signed a deal with Atlantic Records, leading to the 1991 release Trouble at the Door. As she describes in this interview, phase three was beginning to work on song-writing, doing a lot of work for the Hadley Music Group, which led to phase four: singing and performing her music with the Poor Mountain Boys.

If you don’t already know Donna and her music, you’ll really enjoy meeting her in this interview. Her discussion of making the transition from country diva to song-writer is particularly insightful. And you’ll hear how gracious she is.

The version of the interview linked below includes material we couldn’t fit into the 30-minute “radio edit.” Most interesting to me, the online version includes her comments about presenting online shows, the first of which she tried in November 2013. And you’ll meet the canine members of the Stanley-Ulisse family: Molly and Tenbrooks.

The Interview

Donna Ulisse (Recorded 1/20/14; original broadcast date: 1/4/14; host: Mandorichard). 38:49, 37.3 MB. This version of the interview contains excerpts of two songs heard in full on the WVUD broadcast, but includes an extra song and more conversation than appeared in the 30-minute radio broadcast.

Donna Ulisse and the Poor Mountain Boys

Donna Ulisse and the Poor Mountain Boys (husband Rick Stanley, guitar, next to Donna)

The Music

The following music is heard in this episode of The Music Room:

  • Artist / Song / Album (or note) / Label (or source) / Date / Notes
  • Donna Ulisse / Out of Sight, Out of Mind / Trouble at the Door / Atlantic / 1991 / EXCERPT IN PODCAST
  • The Del McCoury Band / Butler Brothers / Streets of Baltimore / McCoury Music / 2013 / EXCERPT IN PODCAST
  • Donna Ulisse / Shady Glen / An Easy Climb / Hadley Music Group / 2011
  • Donna Ulisse / You Cannot Stay Here / All the Way to Bethlehem / Hadley Music Group / 2012
  • Donna Ulisse / Caney Creek to Canaan Land / Holy Waters / Hadley Music Group / 2010 / EXTRA SONG INCLUDED IN PODCAST
  • Donna Ulisse / I’ve Always Had a Song I Could Lean On / Showin’ My Roots / Hadley Music Group / 2013