Album Review: Della Mae, 'Headlight'

by Kim Ruehl (@KimRuehl), Folk Alley

Della Mae Headlight Review Folk Alley

When Della Mae decided to name themselves after a woman who shows up in bluegrass songs as the frequently derided and abused wife or girlfriend, they dedicated their career to speaking on behalf of women and girls. In fact, they have done this around the world, as roving ambassadors sent by the State Department to locales worldwide.

Now, with their latest release, Headlight (Rounder Records), the band chooses not to provide release from the dominant culture of the past few years, but rather to dig deeply into the reality of being female in America. Whether musing about a missing lover (“I Like It When You’re Home”) or paying tribute to brave women like Christine Blasey Ford (“Headlight”), they explore womanhood with integrity and grace, warts and all.

While Headlight’s message is righteous, the songwriting is also some of the group’s finest yet. “The Odds of Getting Even” is so good, you’ll swear it’s already a country classic. The two songs for which the band is joined by the McCrary Sisters, “It’s About Time” and “Working,” have a solid gospel groove and lyrics full of determination, empowerment, and optimism.

“First Song Dancer” is a twangy bop sure to fill a festival dance floor or two this summer. “Wild One” reboots the image of the country girl gone wild, refusing to apologize, leaning on assertive lyricism (“I could kick your ass with heels on”) and Kimber Ludiker’s flaming fiddle solos.

Speaking of flaming instrumentals, there’s the dance hall charmer “Peg Monster,” led by Ludiker’s exquisite, award-winning chops. Before long, she’s trading with Celia Woodsmith’s warm guitar and Jenni Lyn Gardner’s lightning mandolin. If you still thought all this band could do was turn a phrase on the strength of Woodsmith’s vocals, here’s the reminder that they can also play the heck out of an instrumental jam.

My only complaint: Even at 12 tracks, it all feels over too soon. Press play and listen again. Headlight is a trusty musical antidote for our times.


Headlight is available via Rounder Records at Apple Music and Amazon.


Upcoming tour dates:

FEB 7 FRI
Cayamo Cruise
Miami, FL, United States

FEB 8 SAT
Cayamo Cruise
Miami, FL, United States

FEB 9 SUN
Cayamo Cruise
Miami, FL, United States

FEB 10 MON
Cayamo Cruise
Miami, FL, United States

FEB 20 THU
Cervantes' Masterpiece Ballroom & Cervantes' Other Side
w/ Cris Jacobs Band; Jon Stickley Trio
Denver, CO, United States

FEB 21 FRI
WinterWonderGrass - Steamboat
Steamboat Springs, CO, United States

FEB 22 SAT
WinterWonderGrass - Steamboat
Steamboat Springs, CO, United States

FEB 23 SUN
WinterWonderGrass - Steamboat
Steamboat Springs, CO, United States

FEB 27 THU
The Sinclair
w/ Caitlin Canty
Cambridge, MA, United States

FEB 28 FRI
Port City Music Hall
w/ Mark Erelli
Portland, ME, United States

FEB 29 SAT
Back Porch Bluegrass
w/ Travelin' McCourys; Hawktail
Northampton, MA, United States

MAR 1 SUN
City Vineyard
New York, NY, United States

MAR 12 THU
Ambrose West
w/ Rachel Baiman
Asheville, NC, United States

MAR 13 FRI
The Reeves Theater & Cafe
w/ Rachel Baiman
Elkin, NC, United States

MAR 14 SAT
Charleston Pour House
w/ Rachel Baiman
Charleston, SC, United States

MAR 15 SUN
Brooklyn Arts Center
w/ Rachel Baiman
Wilmington, NC, United States

MAR 26 THU
The Chapel
w/ Lindsay Lou
San Francisco, CA, United States

MAR 27 FRI
WinterWonderGrass - Squaw Valley Resort
Olympic Valley, CA, United States

MAR 28 SAT
WinterWonderGrass - Squaw Valley Resort
Olympic Valley, CA, United States

APR 1 WED
The Southern Cafe and Music Hall
w/ Dori Freeman
Charlottesville, VA, United States

APR 2 THU
Modlin Center for the Arts
w/ Dori Freeman
Richmond, VA, United States

APR 3 FRI
Hamilton
w/ Dori Freeman
Washington, DC, United States

APR 4 SAT
Suffolk Center For Cultural Arts
w/ Dori Freeman
Suffolk, VA, United States

APR 5 SUN
Tiger Inn
w/ Dori Freeman
Hampden Sydney, VA, United States
FREE

APR 10 FRI
WinterWonderGrass - Stratton
Stratton Mountain, VT, United States

APR 10 FRI
WinterWonderGrass - Stratton
Stratton Mountain, VT, United States

APR 11 SAT
WinterWonderGrass - Stratton
Stratton Mountain, VT, United States

APR 16 THU
Old Settler's Music Festival
Dale, TX, United States

APR 18 SAT
McCelvey Center
York, SC, United States

APR 23 THU
Ripspique Lier
Lier, Belgium

APR 24 FRI
Tivoli Vredenburg
Utrecht, Netherlands

APR 25 SAT
SPOT Groningen
Groningen, Netherlands

APR 26 SUN
Theater Junushoff
Wageningen, Netherlands

APR 28 TUE
Middlesbrough Town Hall
Middlesbrough, United Kingdom

MAY 9 SAT
Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts
Katonah, NY, United States

MAY 14 THU
Nectar Lounge
w/ Maya de Vitry
Seattle, WA, United States

MAY 15 FRI
Mississippi Studios
w/ Maya de Vitry
Portland, OR, United States

MAY 16 SAT
Roots & Vines Festival

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