"If what passes for country music these days gives you a headache, Brennen Leigh has the remedy.” So wrote the Austin Chronicle in a review of the talented singer-songwriter’s latest album THE BOX. She mixes the traditional sounds of country and bluegrass effortlessly and with deep admiration, yet manages to remain contemporary with subject matter that is both fascinating and universal.
Born in North Dakota, Leigh lived in Moorhead, Minnesota where she began performing with her brother Seth Hulbert. In 2002, she decided to give Austin a try. A dependable mandolin player with a clear voice, Leigh won over such influential Texas country artists as Dale Watson, who asked her to join him on stage, and Jesse Dayton, who she met at a festival in France. They, in turn, introduced her to a broad range of country music fans and like-minded musicians.
2004 was a banner year for the then fledgling singer-songwriter. She began a Tuesday night residency at Austin’s Evangeline Cafe, one that continues to this day. She also released TOO THIN TO PLOW, a satisfying display of her firm grasp on Americana that won her some opening dates with Ralph Stanley. (Editor's note: In 2005, Brennen received the Female Vocalist of the Year award from the Texas Music Awards.) HOLDIN' OUR OWN, a collection of duets with Dayton, followed in 2007. While drawing rave reviews for its gilded harmonies reminiscent of country royalty like George & Tammy, Johnny & June, and Conway & Loretta, it was notable for the fact that Leigh and Dayton co-wrote half of the album’s tunes. It was also during ‘07 that Leigh was honored to join personal hero Charlie Louvin’s band on mandolin. Her many associations brought further recognition, which grew into time spent collaborating with noted Nashville songwriter John Scott Sherrill. Americana champion Jim Lauderdale was one of the special guests on THE BOX. The 2010 release also featured the talents of Sunny Sweeney who reciprocated, by including the song “Amy,” a co-write with Leigh, on her 2011 disc Concrete.
Leigh has most recently lent her mandolin and acoustic guitar talents to the Carper Family, an all woman trio and kindred spirits with a very traditional, yet inspired sound. Leigh has expanded her audience to Europe, especially in Norway where she’s performed eight times since 2005. In the multifaceted Austin music scene, Brennen Leigh stands apart with talent that is distinctive and a sound that is uncommonly satisfying.
Review by Lucky Boyd, MTM co-founder:
Snatching the Female Vocalist of the Year title at the 2005 MTM Texas Music Awards for her performance on "Too Thin To Plow", Brennen Leigh has proven she is a force to be reckoned with. She also had a nomination for Female Vocalist of the Year with her debut album back in 2002. Brennen Leigh is standing on the welcome mat of the house of stardom, knocking feverishly at the door, and it's about to give way. This transplanted Texan comes to us from the upper Midwest, and has landed with both feet in San Marcos, almost a bullseye shot into Texas. Performing with her brother and writing partner, Seth Hulbert, Brennen Leigh has begun to make a name for herself in the Lone Star State. The mandolin-picking Leigh has unleashed her debut offering, "LONESOME, WILD, AND BLUE" (Barking Dog Records). The opening cut is a Brennen Leigh composition and is indicative of this artist's solid bluegrass talent. It doesn't stop there. Brennen fares well on some classics such as "Crazy Arms," "Moanin' The Blues," and "I Can't Help Falling In Love With You." The highlight of this disc is Leigh's vocal purity, donning an early Dottie West quality without the years of wear and tear. Seth Hulbert's co-writes, harmony and lead vocals, and guitar work are another reason this disc flows so well. Brother and sister co-produce with Mike Coates, who also mixes and masters this project. It's orchestrated and arranged as well as anything I've heard lately, and is a pure treasure to listen to from start to finish. With Country, Roots, Bluegrass, and a twang that is more Dallas than Dakota, more Frio than Fargo, Brennen Leigh is a welcome addition to Texas music. No true Texas music fan would pass up this CD. Get it today for $13.49! Now you can get the new Brennen Leigh CD "TOO THIN TO PLOW." (Down Time Records) This disc is a return to a roots sound depicted so flawlessly by Leigh, with the title embedded deep in the fifth cut "Let Him Go On Mama." Leigh's writing couples a traditional bluegrass feel with more earthy lyrics making for a modern experience that appeals to the masses. Penning four of the tracks, Leigh relies on some very solid covers to deliver her sophomore project. Surrounded by adept pickers including herself, Leigh's new release is a maturation from her debut in many ways, but the talent was as stunning then as it is now. A tad less diverse than the debut, this album focuses on Leigh and her neverending ability to deliver masterfully within the genre. This project finds her sound a little more niched, which is a feat many performers never complete, much less attempt. Narrowing of the genre is always a formula for success, and Brennen Leigh has thinned it nicely... perhaps "too thin to plow." A timless classic in the making, get the disc today for only $13.49!
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