Album Review: Donna Ulisse — All the Way to Bethlehem

Henry L. Carrigan, Jr. | December 24th, 2012

donnaulissebethlehemFrom the moment this musical journey begins—with the soaring call-and-response of “I See the Light of the World”—to the closing joyous, Irish reel-inflected shouts of shepherds running through the streets of Bethlehem crying, “The Baby King is born/Heaven’s here on earth,” in “Morning in Bethlehem,” Ulisse’s rapturous and angelic voice soulfully accompanies us on the path that Zechariah, Elisabeth, John, Joseph, and Mary took along that donkey trail to Bethlehem long ago.

Her energetic and moving song cycle captures the emotions of every character in the biblical story found in Luke 1-3 of the events leading up to and surrounding Jesus’ birth. A Celtic-tinged ballad introduces Gabriel, the angel who promises both Elisabeth, through her husband Zechariah, and Mary that “You Will be Delivered,” and “Heaven will rest in Mary’s arms.” Ulisse’s touching duet with husband Rick Stanley on “All the Way to Bethlehem” captures both the doubt that Joseph feels about taking his pregnant wife on a journey to a faraway place and Mary’s deep faith as she reassures him that God “will carry me and my little baby/All the way, all the way to Bethlehem.” In the Appalachian folk song “He is Here,” carried along by dual fiddles, Ulisse expresses the wonder and awe with which the angel Gabriel announces Jesus’s birth to the shepherds, and in “I’m Gonna Shine,” the star shining in the East excitedly announces in a rollicking bluegrass romp that “I’m gonna shine/and shed the light that leads to Christ tonight.”

Surrounded by the witnesses of Byron House on upright bass, Andy Leftwich on violin and mandolin, Rob Ickes on dobro, John Mock on concertina, and Viktor Krauss on upright bass, Ulisse testifies to the true meaning of Christmas in these joyful hymns of adoration, praise, and worship.

4 Stars

Preview or purchase All the Way to Bethlehem

  1. Ron Roberts
    December 24, 2012 at 10:41 pm

    “All The Way To Bethlehem” is one of the best albums I have listened to in years. Each song is so well written and relates to the birth of Jesus. Donna Ulisse has an excellent voice and knows how to interpret a song. I had never heard her before but I am very impressed. I have played this for many of my friends and they have been in awe of the beauty of this whole cd. I would ask people to listen to it and I am sure you will be glad you did! It is unlike any music you have heard before. I suppose you could call this bluegrass gospel but it is very unique. Listen and see for yourself!

  2. Rick
    December 25, 2012 at 11:32 pm

    So, is this like an “answer” album to “Trouble At The Door”?…(lol)

    Darn, it’s too bad Donna couldn’t get back on Music City Roots to sing some of these songs before Christmas! It sure would have been a welcome relief from most of the stuff that populated the “East Nashville Chritsmas” show! Crikey!

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