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All good for Della Mae, no matter what style

The Sinclair, Cambridge, Mass., June 6, 2015

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

Is Della Mae a bluegrass band? Country? Blues? Jazz?

Scratch blues and jazz from the list, although both play into the sounds emanating from the all female quartet. Country certainly was in far more evidence throughout the set, but it's bluegrass that remains the defining sound of Della Mae, which just released its second self-titled disc.

All eyes were focused on lead singer Celia Woodsmith, who had no trouble occupying center stage, for awhile anyway. She was a facile, multi-genre singer. Woodsmith, a Vermont native, has a bit of a smoky voice that she utilized to be a commanding singer. She seemed to have grown since the first release, perhaps more sure of her leadership role.

Woodsmith and gang were clearly excited to be back in Boston. The show was a homecoming for Della Mae as the band spent its formative years in Boston, although members come from four different states. Woodsmith underscored the sentiments and emotions of playing a hometown show.

Woodsmith and band were most comfy with the varying styles on display. The band went jazzy and blues as well with Courtney Hartman adding slide acoustic guitar for a nice touch on a cover of the Rolling Stones' "No Expectations."

That was one of several smartly chosen covers. Della Mae also paid attention to its roots on Buck Owens' "Tiger by the Tail" and the Everly Brothers' "Wake Up Little Susie," the first encore song. The Dellas put their own stamp on both, setting them above the type of band that throws out covers without a lot of ownership.

Hartman doubled up on lead vocals as did mando ace Jenni Lynn Gardner. Of course, it not only spread the love, but also left no doubt that this was a full-fledged band.

The love also was quite spread out musically. Hartman not only excelled on acoustic, but also played banjo on several songs. Gardner was superb on mando, while Kimber Ludiker drove song after song with her fiddle playing, starting with the lead-off "Empire" from the band's Grammy-nominated debut "This World Oft Can Be." They showed prowess on several instrumentals including "Nail That Cat to a Tree."

One part about Della Mae that was different was that they are down to a quartet with the departure of bassist Shelby Means in October 2014 after 2 1/2 years on the job. But the Dellas utilized Zoe Guigueno to give a bottom their music, and she was more than capable along with contributing a bit of background vocals.

With invigorating musicianship and a set list that varied, but never ever flagged, Della Mae made a most welcome return to its former home.

There's always a tendency to label musical acts in terms of what style they play. That could be done to Della Mae, but what mattered at the end of the day was the quality of the performance. In the case of Della Mae, all good.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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