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The young crooner, accompanied by her brother Seth on guitar, hails from up north but has followed her heart south for the time being. Biker bars and roadhouses have welcomed the two as warmly as colleges and coffeehouses. They're all eager to hear not only the rare sound of Americana roots music, but also the voice of the honky-tonk cowgirl who has been described as a 'young Tanya Tucker channeling the ghost of Hank Williams.' Brennen and Seth Hulbert are all over the Americana music map bringing new life to Texas swing, honky tonk, bluegrass, country western, Irish folk and Mississippi Delta blues. Check out their debut album 'Lonesome, Wild & Blue.' It includes originals plus classic and contemporary covers by Hank Williams, Bob Wills and Steve Earle. -- A. Onofre
Keepin' it in the family
There's a crazy little bumper sticker out there which reads, "I wasn't born in Texas, but I got here as fast as I could." Sibling duo Brennen Leigh and Seth Hulbert don't have to don the bumper sticker on the back of their pick-up to let that be known. Instead, they strap on a couple of acoustic guitars, with a mandolin thrown in for good measure and the overly talented acoustic duo hits you like a Texas-bound freight train.
Brennen Leigh and her brother Seth, who transplanted to San Marcos together six months ago after years of feeling the pull of the Texas music scene, bring their acoustic mix of homegrown roots rock and bluegrass to Cafe on the Square tomorrow night at 9:30 pm
In fact, since moving from Minnesota to San Marcos, they have wasted no time playing the circuit. They immediately began performing throughout central Texas, even landing opening gigs for well-known Texas yodeler, Don Walser.
"When we came down, we didn't know a soul," said Seth. At first, the two played wherever they could, but quickly developed a strong fan base which opened the eyes of club owners who have been booking them ever since.
Only 19, Brennen is so freshly a Texas transplant that her cell phone number still has a North Dakota area code. Regardless, the long-distance call hasn't dissuaded booking agents from calling -- and it rings all the time with offers to perform and people intrigued by her powerful voice and well-manicured songs.
Read the entire feature story here.
WOW! We listen to a lot of CD's here
at RMR and were we surprised when we listened to this album.
Brennen is now a local girl here in San Marcos, Texas that we
had never heard of. But that has changed for us and we
are sure it will change for the rest of the USA.
Featured Artist CD review, MyTexasMusic.com, 1/6/03
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 not-yet-20-year-old 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 brother, Seth, 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.
Leigh shakes up country music scene
Brennen Leigh's Lonesome, Wild and Blue is a country album. What am I doing with a country album? Would I normally go out and buy this CD? I seriously doubt it. It really doesn't cater to my taste in music.
That is, until I sat down and listened ot the album. I was blown away. Brennen Leigh and her brother, Seth Hulbert, are amazing musicians. Their songs are short, sweet, catchy and "hick" as hell. I'll let you decide for yourself whether "hick" is good or bad.
Leigh basically goes back to teh roots of country. She successfully combines the elements of country-western, bluegrass, blues and folk. This is also very reminiscent of the music of the Gene Autry/Roy Rogers era. It's very playful with upbeat banjo-picking and classic fiddling that even Charlie Daniels would tip his hat to.
The album also features a cover of the classic Elvis hit "I Can't Help Falling in Love WithYou" which should be a treat for any Elvis/country music lover. One track entitled "Gravel Road Blues" is a darker, bluesy, Danzig-like song with a good amount of rusty slides.
Overall, the album is pretty darn good. It's all acoustic, all raw, and it's very ballsy. In a world where even country music has become bastardized, 18-year-old Leigh successfully revives a lost art and performs it magnificently.
Despite the fact that I don't listen to this genre on a regular basis, I can point out true talent. Pity that the true, young American idols with real talent are always underrated.
Texas two-steppin' -- Next stop for Brennen Leigh and Seth Hulbert: the bluegrass nation of Austin, Texas
Brennen Leigh and Seth Hulbert were born in the wrong time, in the wrong place. Not that they're complaining. it just makes their musical journey that much more interesting...
The Hulberts [sibling duo Brennen Leigh and Seth Hulbert] have always been a bit of an oddity even in their hometown [of Moorhead, MN], playing roots music even before 2000's "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" soundtrack legitimized the genre in commercial circles. However, Brennen's crooning vocals and mandolin and Seth's backup vocals and guitar have received enthusiastic receptions everywhere they've played, including two shows at this summer's Outdoor Concert Series at NDSU.
And they're still getting better. Recent shows have found the naturally laid-back Seth singing louder and with more confidence. And when they play with additional musicians such as Trevor Krieger on fiddle, NDSU music teacher Bill Law on bass and Martin Vigesaa on dobro and steel guitar, a little coffeeshop like the Trentino can hardly contain their sound. They rock, and the fact that no one expects them to rock makes it even more fun.
A wonderful, long feature - read the story in its entirety here...
Brennen Leigh Hulbert follows the path laid down by Weiler, West and Wagner, producing Fargo-Moorhead's latest wise-beyond-their-years acoustic album. The difference is that this recent high school grad's Lonesome, Wild & Blue is a bluegrass album. It's hard to believe that there's a local audience for bluegrass -- until you actually hear a Brennen Leigh performance; then it makes perfect sense.
Bluegrass is perhaps the least rocking of the major musical genres, yet its innocent charm makes it impossible to dislike. This is perhaps why Brennen and her older brother Seth -- who contributes guitar and backup vocals (although not as noticeably as he does on stage) -- are so confident in their music and ability that it seems they could play these songs in their sleep.
Brennen plays seven originals and nine covers on this debut album. Unless you're an expert on old music, you won't be able to tell the difference without checking the liner notes. It's probably sacreligious to say, but I like the originals the best. "Cryin' My Eyes Out" was apparently written as a showcase for Brennen's crooning [yodeling] vocals -- you'd never think "hole," "soul" and "blue" could have so many syllables. And listening to "No Way Jose," beefed up by the Mexican-influenced trumpet courtesy of Neil Mueller, it's hard not to imagine all the musicians wearing sombreros.
Among the covers, "I Can't Help Falling in Love with You" is a gem. It's fascinating to hear a non-bluegrass tune turned into one (it's too bad "Whiskey in the Jar," a live favorite, isn't on the disc), and Brennen actually sounds more emotional on this happy song than she does in the dozen hearbreak songs.
Separated by four years, the duo is a study in contrasts, the difference being accentuated with Brennen assuming her middle name for the stage. More mature than most recent high school graduates, she carries her tall, slender frame with a casual grace, able to saunter in cowboy boots like she was born in them. As assertive and opinionated as she is amiable and outgoing, she has no problem speaking her mind. Seth, on the other hand, is more reticent, entirely comfortable with his younger sister taking the spotlight. For every bit as expressive as Brennen is, Seth is just as stoic.
Their personalities parlay themselves into their instruments. Brennen began playing guitar when she was 12, but fell in love with the playfulness of the mandolin at first sight, and sound, two years ago. While Brennen's mandolin carries the melodies on their CD, "Lonesome, Wild & Blue," Seth is more the journeyman guitar player, keeping the songs moving, carefully picking his spots to step into the spotlight, then ease back into the background.
The CD is a brilliant bit of American music revival. Packed with 16 songs, the disc ranges seamlessly from bluegrass standards to classic ballads, mariachi trumpets to Texas swing, honky tonk to delta blues. The album is split between originals and covers of Greg Brown, Bob Wills, Hank Williams, Steve Earle, Fred McDowell and the Louvin Brothers, and eases from one song to the next without a trace of where the classics stop and an original begins.
A great cover feature! Read the cover story in its entirety here...
feature story in The Forum:
The country Carpenters
When phoning bars and coffeehouses to find gigs, Brennen Leigh's lineup usually causes consternation. Bluegrass and old school country, Delta blues and Irish pub music--in Fargo, this conjures images of backwards, beer-bellied, backporch pickers too uninspiring to play for the American Legion's lunch crowd.
Brennen Leigh--named after the female half of the sibling duo--is anything but. A passionate 18-year-old with long auburn hair and penetrating eyes, Brennen Leigh Hulbert growls, yodels and purrs like a young Tanya Tucker channeling the ghost of Hank Williams.
With her 21-year-old brother, Seth, on guitar, the Hulberts have steadily built a following in Fargo and Grand Forks, N.D., with their bluegrass Carpenters dynamic. Crowds rarely notice when they trade standards for originals, a credit to the country purists' sense of composition styles born 50 years before they were.
It still ain't easy being bluegrass.
"It's awful to try to convince people to book us--some say we're not country enough, some say we're too country," Seth says. "And I don't have enough piercings to play folk, so we're not going there," Brennen adds.
Their eclecticism has taken them from coffeehouses to country venues to more unlikely places like the Zoo Bar biker hangout in Winnipeg, Man. "On my 17th birthday, we pulled over to ask for directions to the Zoo and these kids were like 'Yeah, we know where it is. You're not going there are you?'" Brennen says. "We get there and it's this dank, scary place, they're playing hard-core rock like Pantera, everyone's in leather and chains." After a tentative evening of primarily blues, the bikers were pounding their beers on the table for more. "At first, I thought they were doing it sarcastically, but then some came up to us afterwards and we really had won them over," Brennen says.
Their mother still isn't so keen on that place. "They get some of these gigs and I just get scared to death," says Jeanne, who works for Northwest Airlines. "People usually like them wherever they are, but we like it better when they're in the coffeehouses."
The question still beleaguering them is why: Why would two Moorhead kids play this kind of music, music most people their age have never heard of?
Brennen says like in all true country music, it's all about roots.
"When people say 'What's bluegrass?' it's like pshh, what's Santa Claus?" says the Moorhead High School senior. "We grew up with it. We rejected it for awhile, but couldn't resist the pull of the music our dad and grandpa used to play."
Their first full-lenght press fesature - read the complete story here.
best bet..."Brennen Leigh, Fargo's crooning cowgirl, will step out of the shadows next week at her first CD release party. Well, maybe amble, saunter, or mosey would be more like it. Leigh's soulful take on country tunes separate her from a handful of other talented young female folksingers to come from the Barking Dog Corral. At times as heartbreaking as Patsy Cline, and other times as low down and broken as Hank Williams, Leigh's songs are a special sound in this town.
John Lamb, editor- "Best Bets" in 5/9/02 High Plains Reader, Fargo/Grand Forks ND