Mary Sarah has an exceptional back-story. At eight years old she began singing at her local Tulsa, Oklahoma church, and by age eleven was signed by a major talent agency and began touring the country. She appeared onstage with the Oak Ridge Boys, and made her first appearance at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville in the spring of 2014 honoring the late Ray Price. All of this by the age of eighteen.
At nineteen she released her first full-length CD on independent label, Cleopatra Records, recording duets with some of country music's greatest talents, and with Neil Sedaka, the legendary singer/songwriter. This recording is called Bridges, and it certainly builds a bridge between this young star and several of the greatest voices to come out of Nashville.
Bridges opens with a duet between Mary Sarah and probably the greatest soprano voice ever to grace the country stage—Dolly Parton. Jolene was Parton's second solo number one single on the country charts, and is the song most recorded by other artists of all of the songs she has written. The harmony between Mary Sarah and Parton is nothing short of delicious. Parton's whispering of Jolene's name at the end of the song is worth the price of admission.
But it's on Willie Nelson's Crazy that Mary Sarah's voice shines: expressive, luminous and yearning. And Willie, well, can he sing a false note? He's in great voice, and Mary Sarah is right there with him, note for note, phrase for phrase.
It's a great joy to hear Tanya Tucker accompany Mary Sarah on her country hit, Texas (When I Die). It's also great fun. Producer Kent Wells assembles a talented group of sidemen to accompany the duo on this one, including Billy Joe Walker on acoustic lead guitar, and Terry Crisp on steel guitar.
My personal favorite in this collection is the popular hit, Where the Boys Are, recorded with the truly great singer and songwriter, Neil Sedaka. His tenor, still clear, sweet and ever youthful, plays nicely off of Mary Sarah's soaring vocals. Paul Hallowell on piano is particularly good here.
There are three bonus tracks included: My Great Escape, recorded with Big & Rich; All I Want to do is Sing My Song, with Freddy Powers, and a cover of Brenda Lee's number one hit, I'm Sorry, with a solo vocal by Mary Sarah.
Mary Sarah is a bright, new, young star on the country scene, which has been particularly welcoming of new talent. If Bridges is any indication of what we can expect from her in the future, I would predict that she is going to be a major star. At nineteen she can hold her own with some of Nashville's brightest. There is a sweetness in her voice, but also some real power to dazzle in her vocals. I am excited to see what is next for this bright, new talent.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2015, Peterborough Folk Music Society and Roberta B. Schwartz.
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