Sierra Hull in Madison Square Park

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I started blogging nearly three years ago, purely to keep a journal as we were growing older. Memories fade and blur over time, and this seemed like a good place to document the happenings of our lives.

It’s grown a bit since then in a number of ways, but mostly, due to some incredible connections we’ve made with strangers (some of whom we’ve since met in real life, others where the relationship remains virtual). It has also exposed us to unimaginable enjoyment in the discovery of amazing musicians.

One such virtual connection is someone who has commented a number of times on my posts, signing his comments “alandb”. Nearly every time he leaves a comment, I learn something interesting and more importantly, useful.

A few days ago, he commented on my blog about Red Molly and The Nields, and he told me that Sierra Hull (one of our favorites) was playing a free show at Madison Square Park on Saturday (yesterday). We had plans in NJ at 5:30pm (a separate blog on that following this one), but couldn’t resist seeing Sierra again. Thanks alandb!

I covered Sierra extensively in my post about the Richmond City Slickers concert including her amazing band, Highway 111. Everything that I said about them in that post, still stands.

They played for an exquisite one hour yesterday, and then were rushing to make their flight at LaGuardia, since they originally thought they were supposed to be on an hour earlier. I hope they made it!

When we saw her in Richmond it was Lois’ birthday, and the concert was a surprise for her. At the time, Sierra was just 17-years-old. To make yesterday just a little more special, Sierra was still  just 17, but that’s no longer true today! So, we didn’t catch her on her birthday, but pretty darn close.

Sierra was her brilliant self. Mind-boggling mandolin playing, superb guitar picking, wonderful voice, bubbly personality, in total control of the show!

Sierra Hull and Highway 111

Sierra Hull and Highway 111

Clay Hess was outstanding on the guitar (he’s an exceptional flat picker), and he sang lead and great harmony with Sierra as well.

Clay Hess and Jacob Eller

Clay Hess and Jacob Eller

Corey Walker was incredible on the banjo. He also played guitar (one number) and dobro (on two numbers I think). He too sings beautifully. Yesterday, it was only harmony with Sierra and Clay, no leads.

Corey Walker

Corey Walker

Jacob Eller was superb on the upright bass. While he didn’t sing, he spent a reasonable amount of time entertaining the crowd at the mic, telling funny stories and introducing two songs.

Jacob Eller

Jacob Eller

We own a copy of Sierra’s Secret CD (thanks again to our good friend Chris for gifting that to us, and introducing us to Sierra!). At the show, we bought a copy of Sierra’s first CD, Angel  Mountain, which she put out when she was 10-years-old! Yes, 10! While she continues to grow as an artist, what makes that CD very special (we listened to it this morning) is that it’s entirely instrumental (I assume that at 10, she didn’t have the confidence in her voice yet, or it hadn’t developed enough). It’s such a treat to hear her play that much more mandolin!

After the show, even though they were necessarily rushing around, Lois got Sierra to sign the Angel Mountain CD, and I got to snap another picture of them together, to go with the wonderful picture of them that was taken on Lois’ birthday in Richmond.

Sierra Hull and Lois

Sierra Hull and Lois

Lois and Sierra Hull

Lois and Sierra Hull

Kelleigh McKenzie opened the show for Sierra Hull and Highway 111. She’s a singer/songwriter indie folk musician. She plays the guitar and banjo extremely well. She has a wonderful voice, very crisp, hitting all notes very clearly. She writes interesting lyrics about a wide variety of topics.

Kelleigh McKenzie

Kelleigh McKenzie

All of that means that I should have loved her performance. Unfortunately, I didn’t. She’s extremely talented, and I’m sure a large proportion of the crowd totally appreciated her. I appreciated the individual talents, but I never felt enveloped by the whole experience (with one exception, noted below). Something seemed to be missing.

She has a great stage presence. In fact, on at least two songs, her lead-in explanation of the upcoming song was much more interesting than the song. I was really interested to hear both songs, expecting the cool story to unfold further in the song, but both didn’t live up to the intro.

She played one song that negates everything I said above. She wrote it for her husband for their wedding. It’s called Wife is not a Four Letter Word. Very cute, well delivered, including another well-told introduction.

Personally, I wouldn’t seek her out again, but I also wouldn’t mind seeing her again if she was opening for someone I want to see. I’m perplexed by why I didn’t like her more, I know that I should have!

We drove in from the house just for this show. We got a legal parking spot across the street from the park. I expected to stand for the entire show, but they have the bandstand set up beautifully, including plenty of seats. There was an excellent turnout, with many people who raised their hands claiming to be first-timers at this free-concert series in the park. A great audience, who fully appreciated both artists, with a large percentage of people there having seen Sierra before!