It says a lot for a young player's career that they can create a retrospective of their life through music at age 25. Somehow, Sierra Hull has struck the right note(s) and achieved that goal. Hull is a preternaturally gifted player who commands her mandolin. But her voice is strong, and song writing startling. There's lots to see here.
"25 Trips" refers to journeys around the sun, and, at 25, Hull has already had an enviable career. She's been touring for nearly a decade on the festival circuit, in clubs and out on the road.
The material is rich. It's a thinking person's bluegrass record. Or, it's not bluegrass at all, it just features instrumentation traditionally associated with the genre. "25 Trips" is genuinely inventive; a listener is at once familiar with the form, but cheered by its range and vigor.
Hull is such a fine mandolinist that she could tour and festival-hop for years on the strength of her musicianship. But, she's got a clear-eyed purpose to raise the expectations for traditional music so that it stays on point and is not just a reliquary. In this sense, Hull is on to something. Things and people that don't adapt in 2020 are doomed for dismissal.
"25 Trips" comes at the listener with directness. The trope of time is not a new one, but in the hands of Hull, it presents as fresh. The imagery of tracks like "Beautifully Out of Place" or "Ceiling to The Floor" is powerful. But, "The Last Minute", an instrumental track, recalls John Reischman's best work (which is saying a lot). It's not to be missed.
Hull's work on "25 Trips" is layered, but not complex. Listener rewards are ample, and it's just nice to know that the present and future of traditional music are in good hands.