By Tiffany Snyder, Features Editor
San Marcos Daily Record- 2/14/2003

Keepin' it in the family
Siblings Leigh and Hulbert share love of music

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. Her cell phone number isn't the only thing out of place. The hard-driven young lady inspired by the likes of Hank Williams, Bob Wills and other grandfather acts is chronologically out of place herself.

"We grew up with this kind of music," said Brennen. "We rejected it for awhile but couldn't resist the pull of the music our dad and grandpa used to play."

Living right here in San Marcos, she and her brother began attending Southwest State University mainly for its location. And for the simple fact that SWT is one of the only universities in Texas that participates in a national student exchange program, in which Seth is a participant. "Even though I'll graduate from SWT," said Seth, "My diploma will be issued from the University of North Dakota at Grand Forks."

When the two first toured the university in the fall of 2001, primarily looking for a school for Brennen, Seth said he couldn't really see himself attending SWT. Now, he concedes, he probably likes it more than Brennen does.

"It's the whole town that's so great, and everything surrounding it: the river, Gruene Hall, this place is heaven," said Seth.

Having a flight attendant mom allowed the anxious siblings to visit Texas fairly often allowing them to see first hand that it was here -- and not Nashville -- they needed to be.

The siblings have kept busy since their move bringing their eclectic mix of Americana roots music to anyone who will listen. And from the first note, listening becomes a blessing.

In a very short time, the duo has performed in nearly 10 states and two countries, including such notable venues as the Broken Spoke, Saengerhalle, Austin Street Live and more festivals than you can shake a stick at.

With the help of good airplay supporting their current CD "Lonesome Wild and Blue," Brennen has landed a nomination for "Female Vocalist of the Year" by MyTexasMusic.com.

She may be armed with a mandolin, occasionally a harmonica, Ozark harp or Irish tin whistle, but the real weapon is her voice. "It's a voice as strong as railroad tracks and as smooth as a mint julep," claims her press release and it's right on the mark.

Brennen Leigh and Seth, who provides backup vocals and guitar to his sister's forceful vocals, breathe young life into old standards such as "Crazy Arms" and "I Can't Help Falling in Love With You," making traditionally non-bluegrass songs altogether bluegrass. But they don't stop there. With seven original songs and nine covers on "Lonesome, Wild and Blue," the siblings run the gamut from bluegrass and country western to Texas swing (with nods to Bob Wills), Irish folk and Mississippi Delta blues.

"As you can tell from the CD, we don't just play country or bluegrass," said Brennen. "I think the thing that ties it all together is sadness. There's a sadness and happiness to it. Celtic music, where bluegrass originated from, has the same core ideas: prison, drinking and getting your heart broken."

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