As a child growing up in Charleston, West Virginia, Sierra Ferrell turned to her imagination to while away her free time, spending most of her days outdoors without electronic mediation. She sang in her church choir, but it wasn’t until joining a group of itinerant musicians that she began performing on her own, traveling around the country busking for spare change in locales as distant as Seattle and New Orleans. Although she grew up listening to Nirvana, it was old-school swing music that launched her career, followed by bluegrass. She began sharing performance clips on YouTube, capturing an ever-expanding repertoire that began touching on honky-tonk.
As the videos began racking up views and her spirited performances drew increasing attention, she signed a three-record deal with Rounder, which released her debut recording Long Time Coming in 2021. There’s more than a touch of Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton in Ferrell’s reedy voice, which possesses more than enough rhythmic versatility to bounce between the country, bluegrass, and swing influences that propel the album. Although a number of high-profile guests make cameos on the album—including dobro master Jerry Douglas, guitarist Chris Scruggs, and bassist Dennis Crouch—her own crack band needs no help in accompanying Ferrell’s elastic singing.
While Ferrell is clearly tapping into America’s musical past, her look and delivery are thoroughly contemporary, as she ranges over her influences like old pals willing to be teased and tweaked. As Paste said of the album, “Long Time Coming feels refreshingly forward. Ferrell doesn’t tie herself in knots worrying about how her music coheres into a whole, and she doesn’t waste effort trying to make either the record’s pieces or her pieces fit together like a puzzle picture.”