Della Mae: Della Mae

Thrusting, driving, rootsy, and gutsy, Della Mae hit home on their self-titled sophomore album.

Della Mae

Della Mae

Label: Rounder
US Release Date: 2015-05-12
UK Release Date: 2015-05-12

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. Starting off with the band’s original "Boston Town", the album grabs you immediately. This ode to a home town, its hard-working attitude and the social conditions of its inhabitants is heart-felt and passionate, especially in its exposition on women's rights and roles in society. Its sprightly mandolin is matched in its delivery by the harmonies which lie at its root. Voices, and their use, are as important as the virtuoso musical performances on Della Mae.

"Rude Awakening" is thrusting, driving, rootsy and gutsy, corresponding nicely with the subtle, yearning "Can’t Go Back", which exists with just a drip of mandolin and fiddle backing in its introduction, and subtle harmonies later on. It is simple, perfect, as much Della Mae as their faster tunes, and is a perfect illustration of their development. This is modern roots music writ large.

Band original "For The Sake Of My Heart" touches on country, and is quiet, restrained, informed and quite beautiful. It is affecting, having just the merest touches of harmony –- but works perfectly. It’s followed by Jenny Lyn Gardner’s lead on "Good Blood". This song shows another side of Della Mae's sound on a story of relationships and the strengths of friendships and not having to prove anything to anyone.

Della Mae is a contrasting piece of work; on the one hand quite radio-friendly, but solid and progressive on the other. "Shambles" is, fittingly, rambling, funky –- are there touches of washboard in its background? –- with cutting, rising and falling harmonies and rolling guitar and bass.

Hartman’s banjo seems to be a bit more minimal on this album than its predecessor -– but not on "Take One Day". The five-string leads the line on the nearest the band come to bluegrass on Della Mae. Chopping mandolin, tight voices and rolling fiddle breaks nod to both older songs and country life. The track is a perfect distillation of the band’s optimism and drive -– musically and otherwise. Hartman himself takes vocal lead on the darker, drawling, somehow slighter "Long Shadow", which draws itself out into a praiselike elegy.

There is a welcome touch of dobro on the low, slow, drawn-out introduction of the Rolling Stones’ "No Expectations". This one dips and dives, revealing a breathy, relaxed approach. Closer "High Away Gone" is more rootsy, prayerful, spiritual almost –- a statement of purpose and direction -– much like the entire record. From mountain to valley, Della Mae are the real deal.




Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Street Art As Sprayed Solidarity: Global Corona Graffiti

COVID-19-related street art functions as a vehicle for political critique and social engagement. It offers a form of global solidarity in a time of crisis.


Gretchen Peters Honors Mickey Newbury With "The Sailor" and New Album (premiere + interview)

Gretchen Peters' latest album, The Night You Wrote That Song: The Songs of Mickey Newbury, celebrates one of American songwriting's most underappreciated artists. Hear Peters' new single "The Sailor" as she talks about her latest project.


Okkyung Lee Goes From Classical to Noise on the Stellar 'Yeo-Neun'

Cellist Okkyung Lee walks a fine line between classical and noise on the splendid, minimalist excursion Yeo-Neun.


Alastair Sim: A Very English Character Actor Genius

Alastair Sim belongs to those character actors sometimes accused of "hamming it up" because they work at such a high level of internal and external technique that they can't help standing out.


Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith's New LP Is Lacking in Songcraft but Rich in Texture

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith's The Mosaic of Transformation is a slightly uneven listen. It generally transcends the tropes of its genre, but occasionally substitutes substance for style.


Buzzcocks' 1996 Album 'All Set' Sees the Veteran Band Stretching Out and Gaining Confidence

After the straightforward and workmanlike Trade Test Transmissions, Buzzcocks continued to hone their fresh identity in the studio, as exhibited on the All Set reissue contained on the new box-set Sell You Everything.


Patrick Madden's 'Disparates' Makes Sense in These Crazy Times

There's no social distancing with Patrick Madden's hilarious Disparates. While reading these essays, you'll feel like he's in the room with you.


Perfume Genius Purges Himself and It's Contagious

You need to care so much about your art to pack this much meaning into not only the words, but the tones that adorn and deliver them. Perfume Genius cares so much it hurts on Set My Heart on Fire Immediately.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Confinement and Escape: Emma Donoghue and E.L. Doctorow in Our Time of Self-Isolation

Emma Donoghue's Room and E.L. Doctorow's Homer & Langley define and confront life within limited space.


Political Cartoonist Art Young Was an Aficionado of all Things Infernal

Fantagraphics' new edition of Inferno takes Art Young's original Depression-era critique to the Trump White House -- and then drags it all to Hell.


Folk's Jason Wilber Examines the World Through a Futurist Lens in 'Time Traveler' (album stream)

John Prine's former guitarist and musical director, Jason Wilber steps out with a new album, Time Traveler, featuring irreverent, pensive, and worldly folk music.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.