More and more young, traditionally-based bands are finding success in the wider world of music. While many of these groups get their start in bluegrass, they also blend acoustic country, folk, Americana, and pop influences in to create the style of roots music which bands like the Punch Brothers and the Lumineers are currently making extremely popular.
Boston-based group Della Mae are up-and-comers finding their place within this style. Their newest release, This World Oft Can Be, is a twelve-track collection that’s not quite bluegrass, not quite folk, and not quite pop, but well-executed and enjoyable throughout.
The album starts off on a grassy note, with the cheerful Letter from Down the Road, a sweet, fiddle-filled tune about a girl whose true love is ready to settle down with her. This traditional piece was previously recorded by North Carolina folk singer Laura Boosinger, and the ladies of Della Mae update her arrangement a bit, speeding things up just a little. Pine Tree is another bluegrass-influenced number (particularly thanks to Kimber Ludiker’s fiddling) which reflects on returning home to the hills of Carolina.
The majority of the songs here are originals, composed by lead vocalist Celia Woodsmith and guitarist Courtney Hartman. Woodsmith’s earnest, urgent vocals are well-suited to Maybeline, a pensive piece which speaks of a woman who devoted her life to her children, but was left alone once they were grown. Her keen ability to convey emotion through her vocals also works well on her original tune Hounds, which was inspired by the poem “The Hound of Heaven” by Francis Thompson. This song is one of the few which feature banjo, and offers an interesting take on a sailor’s impending death. Empire, a dark and progressive-sounding song which is also the album’s lead single, was also written by Woodsmith and tells of a mining town which is no longer the kingdom it once was.
Like Bones is a peaceful, tender love song which would easily sound at home on a country singer-songwriter album by someone such as Lori McKenna. Some Roads Lead On, the album’s closing track, has a similar feel, with delicate harmonies and a simple melody played on June Carter Cash’s 1933 Gibson L5 by Hartman.
A few of the songs on This World Oft Can Be fall prey to the vague lyrics preferred by indie bands, but for the most part, the tunes here are well-written, with a poetic flair. The band members, consisting of Ludiker, Woodsmith, Hartman, Jenni Lyn Gardner (mandolin), and Shelby Means (bass), are certainly skilled on their respective instruments, with Ludiker’s fiddling standing out as a high point on the album. If you’re expecting driving, banjo-fueled tunes, this isn’t the album for you. However, those who prefer a bit of country and folk with their bluegrass are in for a treat if they check out Della Mae.
For more information, visit Della Mae’s website at www.dellamae.com or catch up with them on Twitter at @heyheydellamae. Their new album is out now on Rounder Records and can be purchased from most online music retailers, or on vinyl or CD format from their website.