In a relatively short period of time, Della Mae has become a sensation in the music world. Commanding a powerful collective chemistry with vocal, instrumental, and songwriting talent to spare, the Boston-based combo mines time-honored elements to create music that’s unmistakably fresh and contemporary.
The group quickly won an enthusiastic following through their high-energy live performances at festivals around the country. The band expanded its reputation with their self-released first album, 2011’s I Built This Heart, which won an impressive amount of attention for a D.I.Y. release.
This World Oft Can Be, Della Mae’s second album and Rounder debut, shows that like the Avett Brothers, Lumineers, and Punch Brothers, these five multitalented young women are respectful of American musical tradition, but not restricted by it, combining centuries’ worth of musical influences with an emotionally tough, undeniably modern songwriting sensibility.
This World Oft Can Be’s 12 songs—including such engaging originals as “Empire,” “Paper Prince,” “Maybeline” and the feisty title track—showcase the fivesome’s world-class instrumental abilities, lilting harmonies and subtly commanding lead vocals. Although the musicians’ sublime skills have already won them numerous individual honors, the album’s focus is squarely on the band’s emotionally potent songs and spirited, effortlessly expressive performances.
“The identity that we’ve developed as a band is a melting pot of our different personalities and backgrounds,” asserts founder, Kimber Ludiker. After having the idea at a summer festival, Kimber hand picked musicians from all over the country: singer Celia Woodsmith comes from a blues/rock background, guitarist Courtney Hartman studied at Berklee College of Music, bassist Shelby Means played with various bands in Nashville, and mandolin player Jenni Lyn Gardner was schooled in traditional bluegrass. Della Mae’s members hail from all over the United States, and the five women each bring impressive musical resumes amassed in their previous ventures.
Della Mae recorded This World Oft Can Be at Cash Cabin Studio, Johnny Cash’s former recording base, in Hendersonville, Tennessee, with noted guitarist Bryan Sutton in the producer’s chair. (Artists who have recorded at Cash Cabin over the years include Rosanne Cash, Elvis Costello, Emmylou Harris, Merle Haggard, and George Jones). In addition to absorbing the studio’s inspirational vibes, Courtney Hartman played June Carter Cash’s vintage 1933 Gibson L5 Round Hole guitar on “Some Roads Lead On,” while Ludiker had the honor of borrowing John Hartford’s custom carved fiddle on “Letter From Down The Road.” The album was mixed by Paul Q. Kolderie, whose production resume includes albums with the likes of Hole, Radiohead and Dinosaur Jr.
“The whole band had a big part in arranging the songs, most written by Celia and Courtney, and together we molded them into what you’ll hear on the album,” Ludiker notes, adding, “The vibe at Cash Cabin Studio is incredible, and we did a lot of live recording. We overdubbed vocal harmonies and solos here and there, but it’s basically just us playing together in the same room. ‘Some Roads Lead On’ was captured on one microphone, in one take.”
In addition to playing festivals and clubs throughout the United States, Della Mae recently expanded the scale of its touring efforts after participating in the U.S. State Department’s American Music Abroad program. Selected as cultural ambassadors, the band spent 43 days traveling in Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, where they collaborated with local musicians, taught educational programs for children, and played concerts for local audiences.
“It’s been a life-changing experience for us, individually and as a band,” Ludiker says of the tour. “A cool thing about playing music in Central Asian countries is in the lack of distinction their audience places between musical genres. We found that if music is played with feeling, all people connected to it. They find themselves smiling and relating without even understanding the language.”
Indeed, Della Mae demonstrates how effectively music builds bridges and transcends artificially constructed borders, whether they’re national or genre-based. Ludiker concludes: “All five ladies are individually driven, and we are working towards the same goal. This band definitely feels like a calling, a labor of love.”