I never did get to see Della Mae's "old lineup," but I've been aware of the Boston-based all-female bluegrass quintet for some time, and when I heard they were doing a "secret show" at The Burren with new singer Celia Woodsmith, formerly of Hey Mama, I had to check it out. I only got to see about an hour, but it was enough to get a flavor of the group.
Woodsmith made her impression felt right away; she has a great bluesy voice that really shines on numbers like "The Sun's Gonna Shine In My Backdoor Someday." The group mostly played traditional songs, but mixed it up a bit with slower waltzes like "Dark As a Dungeon" mixed with peppier tunes like "Big Spike Hammer" (the chorus of which gives the band its name). The vocals were augmented by adroit picking by fiddler Kimber Ludiker, mandolinist Jenni Lyn Gardner, and Grave Van't Hof on the five-string banjo, though the acoustics didn't always make it easy to hear. Laying down the rhythm was the terrific Amanda Kowalski, who really impressed me with her bass playing and presence when I saw her with John McGann a few months ago.
There were a couple growing pains, but nothing outstanding - at one point the group missed a verse in a song, which few wood have noticed without Woodsmith pointing out. Humorously, Woodsmith also unintentionally referred to Van't Hof's instrument as the fiddle rather than the banjo during introductions. These minor quibbles just highlight how new this arrangement is. If Della Mae is this good on their first gig together (in a less-than-ideal venue), how amazing are they going to be after they've been playing together a few weeks? I look forward to finding out.
Della Mae official site