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Some things never change, Della Mae remains badass

The Sinclair, Cambridge, Mass., May 4, 2019

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

A hiatus of more than two years as an active band and four years in between recordings didn't make any difference for Della Mae, the bluegrass-based all-female quintet.

In fact, Della Mae may be back stronger than ever if this sometimes musically aggressive, always satisfying show was any indication.

Della Mae released a few albums before taking a break that ended about a year ago. The band recently released a six-song EP.

Self-described as "badass women," Della Mae offered a mix of old and new and a chunk of songs that have yet to be released. Being all female, Della Mae offered a few songs that spoke to that, including the unreleased "Wild Woman" with a more in-your-face approach to the music and singing.

Most of the time that would be Celia Woodsmith, owner of a soulfully-tinged voice that is all-powerful. She remains a tour de force as the front person. But she also ceded lead vocals on about three songs to mandolinist Jenni Lyn Gardner ("Sleep With One Eye Open"), who has a more straight-ahead country vocal styling. Gardner may have been more subdued than Woodsmith, but she provided a good alternative.

As for the players, Gardner and fiddler Kimber Ludiker were the particular standouts in song after song. To say they added depth and nuance throughout the 90-minute show would be an understatement. A few instrumentals - "Tater Patch" and the cutely named "No-See-Um Stomp" (the name of the song was based on a trip Ludiker took to Florida) - showcased the group's playing.

Zoe Guigueno's rumbling stand-up was enough to set the stage for Woodsmith's take on the closing classic, the Allman Brothers' "Whipping Post." That's not the kind of song one would think a bluegrass band would tackle, but it proved no problem for Della Mae and Woodsmith's vocal delivery.

About the only difference between Della Mae 2019 and previous gigs was that Courtney Hartman has left the group with (mainly) acoustic guitarist Avril Smith back in the fold. Smith also played electric on a few songs well into the show. Low key in personality, she wasn't when it came to her playing.

One left the show thinking that with the lay-off well behind them, Della Mae is the complete package from song to musicianship to a strong stage presence.

Lonely Heartstring Band opened with a sturdy set as well. The bluegrass quintet also had a plethora of well-delivered songs with a humorous streak over the course of a lengthy hour-long opening stint. That was mainly due to banjo ace Gabe Hirshfeld, who had a running joke about the Traveling Wilburys' album being available at their merch table.

But LHB was far more than funny men. Fiddle man Patrick M'Gonigle was a particular standout, but this is really band of equals.

The band announced last month it would go on hiatus come September. Too bad because they have proven themselves to be a worthy band. Who knows? Maybe they'll end up back together like Della Mae and all the better for it.