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Della Mae gives all

Portland, Maine, Port City Music Hall, May 31, 2015

Reviewed by Fred Frawley

Della Mae give it their all. In the midst of a Northeast run in support of their self-titled Rounder release, "Della Mae," the band took the stage on a rainy Sunday evening and displayed their total command of their instruments, both vocal and stringed.

Della Mae is at the top of its game, and that's saying a lot. Celia Woodsmith's husky vocals display a range and mastery of a wide range of songs. The new material equals the texture and intensity of their earlier releases, and the band showed no fear in tackling the new and old.

Always pitch-perfect and tight, the Dellas grabbed the audience from the jump with a couple of tried and true numbers, notably "Pine Tree" from "This World Oft Can Be" and then launched into newer territory with confidence and joy. "Shambles," "Boston Town," "To Ohio" and "Good Blood" displayed Woodsmith to fine effect and, played live, enriched the qualities of the recorded versions.

Woodsmith's vocals are the centerpiece of Della Mae's stage show. But, her bandmates' instrumental prowess brings great texture. Fiddler Kimber Ludiker is a force of nature, mixing mournful fiddle lines and wild runs seemingly without effort. Jenny Lyn Gardner's mandolin playing has never been better, with some especially tasty fills in the most unexpected places. Courtney Hartman, picks her Bourgeois acoustic guitar as if channeling Tony Rice. And the newest addition to the stage Dellas is bassist Zoe Guigueno of the late, and much-lamented, Joy Kills Sorrow. Guigueno lays down a fulsome bassline to complement her mates.

Hartman and Gardner took the lead on a couple of songs (notably Hartman on "Rude Awakening") and contributed strong vocal and harmony and counterpoints through the show. Woodsmith took the reins back with the closer, "No Expectations." With Hartman playing slide on her guitar, the show could not have ended on a higher note. Just hope the Dellas close with that one when they come to your town.

Darlingside, a four piece acoustic outfit rich in harmony, opened. Their set was an hour-long search for an anthem, and they have found a couple.

Della Mae was among friends in Portland. Three of the five on-stage instruments were crafted in Maine, including two Bourgeois guitars and Ludiker's Jon Cooper-constructed violin. The home crowd left happy.

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