Friday, June 17, 2011

Della Mae - A Band to Watch

Della Mae

Understanding that our political sensibilities strongly suggest not calling a group of mature, thoughtful, and talented young female musicians a "girl band," that's what Della Mae is. Yet they are so much more they should be recognized first and foremost as a terrific emerging bluegrass band making exciting music using traditional materials blended with acoustic sounds reflecting contemporary singer/songwriter sensibilities and strengths while celebrating the traditions on which their music is based.  This band is no novelty, but a powerhouse band creating a unique sound. It's members, whose backgrounds range from traditional southern bluegrass through urban rock, Texas style fiddling to classical training, are musically strong and visually enticing.  

Della Mae - Polk County - Video

The membership of Della Mae has undergone some changes since its founding in 2009, but you can expect to see the band four women pictured below with the addition of hot flat-picker Courtney Hartman in appearances at Grey Fox, Rocky Grass, and other festivals this summer as well as on Prince Edward Island in November and on tour in Germany this coming December.  

Kimber Ludiker
Kimber Ludiker is the current Grand National Fiddle Champion as well as the daughter of five time winner Tony Ludiker.  Her mother, too, is a noted fiddler, so it's little surprise that she took to the fiddle early and learned well.  At her recent fiddle workshop at Strawberry Park, in response to a question about whether she read music, Kimber told a touching story about how, as a member of her high school orchestra, her teacher saw her fingering the fiddle in unison with an orchestral piece and realized she had memorized the piece by ear and did not know how to read music.  The next day, the teacher brought in a stack of sheet music, announcing that the class would practice sight reading that day. "Kimber, would you go first?" she asked.  Surviving such cruelty, Kimber has thrived as a player in several bands as well as in teaching, workshopping, and providing a musical model for young fiddlers.

Kimber Presenting Fiddle Workshop at Strawberry Park
Celia Woodsmith
Celia Woodsmith, the new lead singer for Della Mae, was born in North Carolina, raised in Vermont, where she graduated from UVM,  and shows elements of both influences in her powerful singing.  Her solid bluesy voice combined with a large emotional range give her singing high impact.  Celia toured with a rock band called Hey Mama for several years before leaving her washboard behind to join Della Mae.  Della Mae's new album "I Built this Heart," scheduled for release on July 23rd at Club Passim in Boston, contains nine of her songs.  Her addition to Della Mae has substantially changed the sound and direction of the band to take advantage of her singing while the band has also concentrated on becoming increasingly tight.

Jenni Lyn Gardner

Jenni Lyn moved to Boston from Nashville to join Della Mae, but her roots are in bluegrass music from around Conway, SC, the county seat of Horry County, where Myrtle Beach is located.  While in Nashville see played with IBMA Male Singer of the Year Bradley Walker, The Mark Newton Band, and appeared on the IBMA Recorded Event of the Year CD "The Daughters of Bluegrass."  She brings both first rate mandolin work and a solid voice to the Della Mae mix. She sings the lead vocal in the video below.

Della Mae - Nine Pound Hammer - Video

Amanda Kowalski

Amanda undertakes some of the emcee work with Della Mae in addition to playing superior bass. Her beat is always steady and solid and her bass breaks outstanding, as can be seen in the Nine Pound Hammer video.  Trained in classical bass starting at the age of nine in her home town of Wheeling, West Virginia. Like many bluegrass pickers, a family member interested her in bluegrass music where she has found a home without having to relinquish the many skills offered by classical training.  On stage she almost seems to be dancing with her bass, so vivid is her on-stage presence.  And how many bass players manage such a lively smile? Amanda spent some time with Abigail Washburn's ground-breaking band Uncle Earl and has traveled a good deal from her current home in Nashville.  She's performed in venues as diverse as the Sydney Opera House and the Grand Old Opry.  

Courtney Hartman

Courtney Hartman is still a student at Berklee College of Music in Boston, which restricts her availability to Della Mae.  She will be appearing with the band on selected dates during their current tour.  A fine flat-picker, she also adds harmony vocals to the mix.  Courtney comes from Colorado, and has extensive experience playing and singing bluegrass. A multi-instrumentalist, she has recently concentrated on guitar.

Practice on the Grass at Strawberry Park

Della Mae will be releasing its first CD "I Built This Heart" on June 23rd in Boston. In order to finance their new venture, they are seeking to raise funds through a new and innovative web presence called Kickstarter.  You can take a look at Della Mae's fund raising campaign and decide whether to participate by clicking here.  Projects participating in Kickstarter typically offer rewards for various levels of participation.  By supporting such efforts, you can assist emerging artists to realize their dream and help the gain recognition without the constraints posed by recording on an established label; they can retain a significantly higher proportion of their earnings.

Della Mae - Blessed Hands - Video


Della Mae is an exciting and musically intriguing band.  Suggest them to your local promoter and see them if you get the chance.