Make us your home page

Review: In Della Mae's 'World,' a fresh spin on bluegrass

Acoustic quintet Della Mae wraps a big ol' bear hug around tradition on This World Oft Can Be, while managing not to loosen their grip on a fiercely modern identity.

The band's deft touch at infusing bluegrass with contemporary singer/songwriter sensibilities shows immediately on the first track, Letter From Down the Road/And Other Things – a fresh spin on the traditional song previously recorded by Laura Boosinger.

This World Oft Can Be spans an array of styles and sounds. The hard-driving Empire tells the story of a mining town turned ghost town. The swelling ballad Paper Prince details a lingering loneliness, Turtle Dove delivers a dose of toe-tapping whimsy and the delicate Like Bones celebrates a quiet moment between lovers just before the sun rises.

Della Mae's original songwriting, lilting harmonies and razor-sharp instrumentation puts This World Oft Can Be in a rare position to appeal equally to earnest bluegrass fans and wider cross-genre audiences.

Founder Kimber Ludiker, a two-time Grand National Fiddle Champion, handpicked mandolin player Jenni Lyn Gardner, guitarist Courtney Hartman, singer Celia Woodsmith and bassist Shelby Means for the Boston-based Della Mae lineup. Gardner contributes gospel-tinged lead vocals on a cover of Sarah Siskind's Pine Tree and Means steps elegantly to the front on Some Roads Lead On, written by Bill McKay.

But Woodsmith provides the band's signature sound with a voice effortlessly shifting between gritty, sensual, folksy and powerful. Her breathy urgency lifts Heaven's Gate and she breaks into a near-rap in parts of the rhythmic title track.

This World Oft Can Be, released Tuesday, is at its best when Woodsmith's voice blends seamlessly with Ludiker's fiddle and Gardner's Mandolin, such as the aching breakup song Ain't No Ash Will Burn, written by Walt Aldridge. Because much of the album was recorded live, with only minimal overdubbing of vocal harmonies and solos, it retains an authenticity not far removed from a live performance.

This World Oft Can Be is Della Mae's first album on the Rounder Records label, following their self-released 2011 debut I Built This Heart. Della Mae is scheduled to perform in the Riverhawk Music Festival in Brooksville on Nov. 9 and on the Mountain Song at Sea bluegrass cruise, which departs out of Miami, early next year.

Review: In Della Mae's 'World,' a fresh spin on bluegrass 05/28/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 28, 2013 8:44pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Seasoned cast scores an extra-base hit for St. Petersburg Opera with 'Faust'


    TAMPA — Charles Gounod's Faust sets the table early. The world-weary philosopher immortalized in a dramatic poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe is in his study, lamenting his state of affairs. He's willing to give away everything he has to be young again, even his soul.

    The St. Petersburg Opera Company begins its season with Faust, in a production seemingly aligned with the original intent of French composer Charles Gounod and librettists Jules Barbier and Michel Carre. [St. Petersburg Opera Company]
  2. Blake High grad Taylor Trensch lands lead role in 'Dear Evan Hansen' on Broadway


    For those who saw Taylor Trensch grow up in Tampa, his rise from promising student to star is heartwarming and entirely predictable. In January, Trensch, 28, will be moving into the title role of Dear Evan Hansen on Broadway, one of the hottest tickets in theater.

    Taylor Trensch, a 2007 Blake High graduate, will play the title role in Broadway's Dear Evan Hansen. Courtesy of Frank Trensch.
  3. A scene from "Epiphany."
  4. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Oct. 22


    Clearwater Jazz Holiday: The Avett Brothers: The Avett Brothers, with their blend of folk, bluegrass and rock, lead the lineup. 1:30 p.m., Coachman Park, 301 Drew St., Clearwater. $16 per day, $45 reserved, $170 VIP. (727) 461-5200.

    AUSTIN, TX - MARCH 15:  (L-R)  Joe Kwon, Bob Crawford, Seth Avett, and Scott Avett of The Avett Brothers pose for a portrait at the "May It Last: A Portrait Of The Avett Brothers" Premiere - 2017 SXSW Conference and Festivals on March 15, 2017 in Austin, Texas.  (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for SXSW)
  5. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Oct. 21


    Conor Oberst: The Bright Eyes mastermind will be joined by opener, the Felice Brothers. 8 p.m., Capitol Theatre, 405 Cleveland St., Clearwater. $30.50-$36. (727) 791-7400.

    Handout photo of Conor Oberst, performing Oct. 21 at the State Theatre in St. Petersburg. Credit: Grandstand Media