Della Mae’s ‘The Butcher Shoppe’ whets appetite

Della Mae

Della Mae’s new record, “The Butcher Shoppe,” is a delicious melting pot of bluegrass music.

Cut during one lightning-in-a-bottle session of elation at The Butcher Shoppe Recording Studio in Nashville, these are the first new Della Mae recordings in four years. Expanding upon their so far 10-year mission to be the premier melting pot for bluegrass-motivated, all-female talent, the ladies spent some time spreading peace and empathy to the far reaches of the world as part of the U.S. State Department’s American Music Abroad program.

Who better, in delightful harmony while igniting wood and steel in fiery, alluring performances, to bring joy to those that may otherwise never have the chance to smile and dance to this kind of music? What better display of unique American art and ideals than the sophisticated swing, close harmony, and tongue-in-cheek notions beaming from “Bourbon Hound?” That opening song here comes off like fellow Della MaeU.S. Ambassadors the Andrews Sisters of the 1940s, rising up in a hay-strewn barn in the Virginia hills today. Written by lead vocalist, guitarist and washboard player Celia Woodsmith about her kitchen cabinet-full of her favorite spirits, the tune is one of two originals among four fan-favorites covered on this EP. It’s also one of five spotlighting the picking flair of original Della Mae guitarist Avril Smith, returning to the fold for the thrill of it all.

Founding fiddler Kimber Ludiker’s “No-See-Um Stomp” stands alone as the band’s first instrumental breakdown, the hair-on-fire pace of it thrust forward by the twin guitars of Smith and guest Molly Tuttle, plus the old-time, new-fangled banjo of associate guest Alison Brown. Lester Flatt’s 1955 classic, “Sleep with One Eye Open,” has Tuttle and Brown sporting their best Flatt and Scruggs wear, while mandolin player Jenni Lyn Gardner takes the lead in voice, driving the hills and valleys of the song in glorious coordination with her bandmates.

Della Mae’s broad-minded approach to music excels especially well in their masterful workout on The Allman Brothers Band classic, “Whipping Post.” The simultaneously weeping and surging melody, complex picking, and Woodsmith’s bluesy pleas, stir up a squall of reverence and innovation. Good Lord, I feel like I’m dyin’ to hear some more heavenly Della Mae again, right now!

— Tom Clarke

  • Della Mae
    ‘The Butcher Shoppe’
    Release: March 1, 2019
    Label: Rounder Records

About Tom Clarke

From pre-war blues to the bluegrass of the Virginia hills, Tom Clarke has a passion for most any kind of deep-rooted American music, and has been writing about it for 23 years. He’s particularly fond of anything from Louisiana, and the 45-year timelines and ever-growing family trees of The Allman Brothers Band and Los Lobos.Tom’s reviews and articles have appeared in BluesPrint, the King Biscuit Times, Hittin’ The Note, Blues Revue, Elmore, Blues Music Magazine, and now, Tahoe Onstage.Tom and his wife Karen raised four daughters in upstate New York. They split their time between the Adirondack Mountains and coastal South Carolina.

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