This World Oft Can Be
The musical balancing act achieved by the all-female quintet Della Mae on its second album (and first for Rounder Records) is a quintessential example of 21st-century newgrass. Courtney Hartman’s acoustic guitar, Kimber Ludiker’s fiddle, and Jenni Lyn Gardner’s mandolin fire off enough fierce licks throughout This World Oft Can Be to satisfy the most demanding hardcore bluegrass addict. The album opener, “Letter from Down the Road/And Other Things” shows the band’s ease with an old-school back-porch feel. But much of the record moves beyond the confines of trad bluegrass; the structure and feel of moody, atmospheric tunes like “Paper Prince” and “Heaven’s Gate” have more to do with modern alt-folk singer/songwriter sounds. Singer Celia Woodsmith sounds comfortable on either end of Della Mae’s stylistic spectrum, and by the time things end with the almost hymn-like “Some Roads Lead On,” it’s clear that the band’s vision of modern roots music really requires no labels.