I dubbed Della Mae the break-out band of this year's Grey Fox, and they did not disappoint in their late pre-release show for their forthcoming album, I Built This Heart. Even the minor criticism I had of their Grey Fox set - that the guitar breaks of newcomer Courtney Hartman were too quiet and disrupted the group's dynamics - were addressed; her skillful solos sounded great and did not disrupt the group's dynamics. The group was all loose and lively, it being their second set of the evening. Most of the songs were originals by lead singer / rhythm guitarist Celia Woodsmith, but the group also played some covers - Bill Monroe's "Muleskinner Blues," Hank Williams' "Hey, Good-Lookin,'" and Flatt & Scruggs' "Big Spike Hammer," from which the group gets its name. The originals stole the show, though, from the bouncy "Jamie Dear" to the dark "From the Bottle" to the delicate "I Built This Heart." Woodsmith sings with a passion rare in bluegrass music, and the rest of the group - bassist Amanda Kowalski, fiddler Kimber Ludiker, and mandolinist Jenni Lyn Gardner - were matching her intensity with their playing.
Opening act Laurie Lewis and Tom Rozum did a short, tasteful set, with their spare two-person sound complementing The Carter Family's "Texas Girl" or original tune "The Oak and the Laurel." For their last tune, traditional "Ain't Gonna Work Tomorrow," they showed their spry side, bringing Kowalski and Ludiker on to jam. Later, they joined Della Mae for a few tunes, including a barn-raising version of "Bowling Green."
It was a memorable night; look for a forthcoming preview of Della Mae's new album!
Della Mae official site
Laurie Lewis official site