Hey Hey, Nashville… It’s Della Mae!

This post is a contribution from Grace Van’t Hof, one of our 2010 IBMA correspondents. She will report about her experiences at IBMA as she tries to promote her group, Della Mae.

Hey all! This is Grace Van’t Hof. I play the banjo in the all-female Boston bluegrass outfit, Della Mae.

Jenni Lyn Gardner, Kimber Ludiker, Amanda Kowalski, and yours truly left Porter Square in Boston at about noon on Sunday and booked it on down to Washington, D.C. the hometown of our guitarist, Avril Smith. After about 5 hours of sleep on all of our parts we hopped back in the minivan (tight fit!)  armed with podcasts and rice cakes, and drove the 12 hours to Nashville TN.

We have the good luck of having a great manager/publicist, Heidi Labensart, who managed to rent a condo for us on 2nd Street. If anyone ever considered this option as an alternative to a hotel room, I highly recommend it! We all got settled in and traveled on to the convention center.

In the rush between arriving and Della Mae’s showcase at 1:00 a.m. I ran into many close friends of mine, Sav Sankaran (bass: Dixie Bee-liners. the man is sick on that bass folks, just ill.), Patrick McDougal (banjo: Rodney Dillard Band, writer of the song Wheels), Sam Guthridge (banjo: Chester River Runoff, and general vagabond), Ty Gilpin (radio promoter and bluegrass afficianado for Crossroads Records. Ask him about the Boxcars!), Emilee Warner (head publicist for Compass Records and ultimate superwoman), and Rorey Caroll (amazing singer/songwriter who just came out with her first solo album. Cody Kilby, Jason Flournoy, and Stuart Duncan perform on it. Yeah, you wanna get one).

I had the extremely good fortune to head up to the Caroline Colie’s Acoustic Trail Showcase a couple of hours before our set. Am I glad I did! I had the great opportunity to catch the second ever show of the band Bearfoot‘s brand new lineup! This crack-team consists of original members (and ETSU classmates of mine!) Jason Norris on mando, and Angela Oudean on fiddle. They are joined by the lovely and talented Nora-Jane Struthers on guitar and vocals, Todd Grebe on vocals and lead guitar, and P.J. George on vocals and bass. You would never believe that this lineup hasn’t been together for years.

They performed a Nora-Jane original called The Blight that broke my heart. It was a nostalgic song about nature and memories ruined by progress and man’s greed. I’ll say, the new Bearfoot lineup are a talented bunch. I cannot wait to see them perform again!

Another band of note: The Hillbenders. Della Mae shared the main stage at Grey Fox with them this summer, but I haven’t had the chance to sit down and watch their stage show until now. These guys are insane. Insane pickers, insane singers, and INSANE stage presence. Chad Graves rocked the Dobro with his aviator sunglasses, personalized strap, and Elvis style “comb and curl,” and Mark Cassidy slayed several original banjo tunes (Clutch was my favorite, it changes feel and time signatures throughout the piece). Check these guys out. Just do it. They have a new album out. Please. Do it.

Della Mae performed at 1:00 a.m. to a dauntless crowd. What a way to kick off our IBMA week! We have already modified a well-known Christmas carol to suit our IBMA purposes……

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year…. there are banjos for pickin’ and…..”

Well, I figure I’ve got the whole week to finish it.