Release Date: May 12, 2015
Record label: Rounder
Genre(s): Bluegrass, Country, Americana, Contemporary Bluegrass, Traditional Bluegrass, Close Harmony
On this self-titled effort, they enlist veteran producer Jacquire King (Tom Waits, Norah Jones, Melissa Etheridge). Musically, they didn't need to do anything radically different -- and they don't, but there is a marked difference here. It can be attributed to the confidence that comes from playing together for six years. As a result, the songwriting and arranging have grown immensely.
Della Mae approach their new record, their second for Rounder, with a view to expand their music, their worldview, and their experience. Moving on from debut effort This World Oft Can Be, the four-piece—Celia Woodsmith on vocals and guitar, Kimber Ludiker, fiddle and vocals, Jenni Lyn Gardner, mandolin and vocals and Courtney Hartman on guitar, banjo and vocals—have now teamed up with eminent producer Jacquire King to convert this expansion to new set Della Mae, 11 tracks which take in new influences and new topics, new versions of classic tracks and new musical horizons. Alongside bass player Mark Schatz and Elephant Revival frontwoman Bonnie Paine, who adds percussion and musical saw on a selection of Della Mae’s tracks, the four band members clearly work well together, bouncing ideas and themes off each other, allowing their respective instruments to find paths round each other, sometimes rising, sometimes falling, but never failing to deliver punch, soul and emotion in equal measure.
Della MaeDella Mae(Rounder)Rating: 3 out of 5 stars This Nashville by way of Boston acoustic quartet has released two previous albums (the last one from 2013 was nominated for a Grammy), has toured the world as part of the US State Department’s American Music Abroad program and, perhaps most notably, has played San Francisco’s famous Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival. Since the group mixes country, folk and subtle rock leanings with a rural backwoods sound, the “hardly strictly bluegrass” tag perfectly describes their more eclectic approach. Lead singer Celia Woodsmith’s husky voice also injects a healthy amount of soul into the proceedings.
As impressive as it was — indeed, it earned the group a Grammy nomination for best bluegrass album — it turns out that Della Mae’s 2013 sophomore release was something of a warm-up. “This World Oft Can Be,” which marked the Boston-bred string band’s debut for Rounder Records, only hinted at the masterful performances on its new eponymous follow-up. “Della Mae” is smart and assured, a continuation of the band’s penchant for blurring the lines between bluegrass, folk, soul, and old-time traditions.
If there’s any real convergence between New England bluegrass, Nashville Americana and the Anglo thump of indie-folk, Della Mae stands planted at the crossroads. An all-female group formed in Boston six years ago, it landed a respectable following with its 2013 Rounder release, “This World Oft ….