Music

Della Mae Are Bluegrass Bad-Asses on 'The Butcher Shoppe EP'

Photo courtesy of Concord Music Group

The Butcher Shoppe succeeds in partially shoving the boy's club out of the way. In doing so, Della Mae's regain their position as bluegrass bad-asses.

The Butcher Shoppe EP
Della Mae

Rounder

1 March 2019

Hailing from Nashville, by way of Boston, Della Mae imbues their music with an undeniable fierceness. The power is palpable in their stage shows while deftly transcending on the recent The Butcher Shoppe EP . Formed in 2009, Della Mae were originally considered one of the few all-women string bands on the bluegrass scene. That designation required Della Mae to approach their music with moxie and resolution. Indeed, their career is evidence they have always done so and The Butcher Shoppe EP exceeds these expectations. Composed of unreleased fan favorites from their live sets as well as cover songs, the EP is an unadulterated display of their musical alacrity.

As the first seconds of The Butcher Shoppe EP transpire, it is apparent that Della Mae's musicality is brazen. The thrilling opener, "Bourbon Hound", gives the listener a sense of their stage shows' energy and affinity for fun. A drinking-song spiked with double entendre, "Bourbon Hound" echoes the grittiness of Wanda Jackson's rockabilly. Much as Jackson intermixed toughness with sexuality, Della Mae shows a similar penchant when they sing, "Why don't you swing it on back / Make another Old Fashioned / Stir it up right for all that dancing / Baby, won't you whirl me around."

It's important to acknowledge the track is called "Bourbon Hound" not booze-hound. Instead of producing the track as a full-fledged party anthem, Della Mae uses the lyrics to demonstrate their knowledge about whiskey and its flavor profiles thereby conflating tippling with expertise. More so, "Bourbon Hound" exhibits a frolicsome wordsmithery with the lyrics "Booker takes you home for the night / A little Buffalo Trace and my feet are off the ground". Della Mae's ability to interject carousing with lexicon is both celebratory and clever.

Besides the convivial wordsmithery, Della Mae's musicians are a master class. The clearest display of Della Mae's adroit musicality is in the instrumental "No-See-Um Stomp". The track is a three-minute blast showcasing Della Mae's intrepid musical talents. Opening with Kimber Ludiker's virtuosic fiddle playing, she eventually meets up with twin guitar contributions from guest musicians Avril Smith and Molly Tuttle. Zoe Guigueno's bass, underscored by Jenni Lyn Gardner's mandolin, tricks the ear into hearing the word "stomp" despite the lack of vocals. Finalizing the track as an instrumental is a shrewd production choice. Adding a layer of lyrics would certainly clutter "No-See-Um Stomp" then render the impressive string plucking secondary. Pristine and nimble, "No-See-Um Stomp" is why Della Mae is such an enthralling group.

Essentially, The Butcher Shoppe EP is a musical memo to not mess with Della Mae. In case there were any doubts, "Sixteen Tons" solidifies their strength and power. Their cover of the Merle Travis classic, made famous by "Tennessee" Ernie Ford, combines elements of soul with Ludiker's plaintive fiddle and Alison Brown's Arcadian banjo. But Celia Woodsmith's vocals are the showstopper. At times her voice jumps from abrasiveness to sultriness imparting a quasi-theatrical spin on the coal miner's sorrow. Della Mae, however, casts aside melodrama for fortitude when the lament reaches its apogee: "If you see me comin', you'd better step aside / A lotta men didn't, and a lotta men died / I got one fist of iron and the next fist of steel." Della Mae's authority is apparent.

The Butcher Shoppe EP ends with a cover of the the Allman Brothers' "Whipping Post". Again, Woodsmith is valorous and seductive endowing the musical epic with acute misery. Later in the EP, Della Mae also pays tribute to Flatt and Scruggs with their cover of "Sleep With One Eye Open". But the covers are problematic as they only emphasize male musicians. Without question, Merle Travis, "Tennessee" Ernie Ford, the Allman Brothers, and Flatt and Scruggs are foundational to the history of bluegrass and folk music. But where are the equally inspirational and important women musicians? As Della Mae misses the opportunity to cover prominent female forebearers, they also miss the opportunity to usurp androcentrism.

Despite this, The Butcher Shoppe EP succeeds in partially shoving the boy's club out of the way while making room for Della Mae's dynamism. In doing so, Della Mae's regain their position as bluegrass bad-asses.

7

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.

Books

Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.

Music

PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.

Film

'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.

Music

Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.

Film

Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.

Music

Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.

Music

The Flaming Lips Reimagine Tom Petty's Life in Oklahoma on 'American Head'

The Flaming Lips' American Head is a trip, a journey to the past that one doesn't want to return to but never wants to forget.

Music

Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.

Music

Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.

Music

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.

Music

'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.

Music

Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.

Television

Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.

Film

Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.

Music

The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

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