Hey Hey Della Mae

Article Published: Feb. 18, 2010 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
Hey Hey Della Mae

Della Mae will perform Feb. 23 at the Mast Farm Inn in Valle Crucis.

Photo by Ricky Chapman

A group of some of the most talented modern bluegrass musicians will be performing at the Mast Farm Inn in Valle Crucis as part of the Bluegrass Legacy series on Tuesday, Feb. 23.

Della Mae is an all-female bluegrass collective formed in Boston, Mass., in late 2009. By blending traditional bluegrass technique with modern songwriting themes, Della Mae brings a new and fresh perspective to a genre that has been yearning for something innovative for many years.

Henri Deschamps, owner of the Mast Farm Inn along with his wife, two daughters, and son-in-law, said that it is rare to see virtuoso-level individual performers come together to form a group in the bluegrass and folk music scene.

"The ladies in Della Mae are doing very different things with their music," Deschamps said. "It's not blues, Americana, or rock, but it is something completely original."

Although their basic sound is easily recognizable as bluegrass, the members of Della Mae come from distinctly different musical backgrounds than their sound suggests, adding versatility to their music.
Vocalist Laura Cortese, in addition to performing with Della Mae, is a co-founder of the Boston Celtic Music Festival and has played with Uncle Earl, The Anarchist Orchestra, The Jolly Bankers, and Pete Seeger. Cortese also performs solo and released her newest studio album, Blow the Candle Out in 2007.

Grace Van't Hof, the group's banjo player, grew up in western Michigan and initially studied classical violin and piano. In high school, she began learning to play the banjo, and won two scholarships, based on her performances, to East Tennessee State University to study under its bluegrass, old-time and country music program. Van't Hof has performed at MerleFest in Wilkesboro, Bel Chere in Asheville, the Ulster American Folk Festival in Omagh, Ireland, and the International Folkdance Festival in Palma De Mallorca, Spain.

Bassist Amanda Kowalski has been playing double bass for nearly 20 years. A West Virginia native, Kowalski, in addition to her career as a photographer, has performed with Uncle Earl, Abigail Washburn, and Bela Fleck.

New York native Avril Smith, Della Mae's guitarist, is recognized nationwide as one of the top guitar and mandolin players in the acoustic music scene. She won the Washington Area Music Association's Best Contemporary Folk Instrumentalist Award both in 2004 and 2008. Smith has performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., the Birchmere in Alexandria, Va., and the Knitting Factory in New York City. She currently resides in Washington, D.C.

Fiddle player Kimber Ludiker rounds out Della Mae's lineup with some of the most authoritative fiddle playing in modern music. Ludiker has 21 years' experience with the fiddle and is the current Grand National Fiddle Champion. Ludiker has performed with Mike Marshall, Hanneke Cassel, and Matt Glaser. She lives in Boston, Mass., and performs with Broken Blossoms, Kellen Zakula, and True Life Bluegrass.

The Mast Farm Inn's Bluegrass Legacy Facebook FanPage was created by Henri Deschamps to celebrate and honor the bluegrass tradition.

"The Bluegrass Legacy was created to be a visitors' and convention bureau for bluegrass music," Deschamps said.

The Bluegrass Legacy Web site soon grew into the concert series.

"The concerts and other events came from the idea that while there is nothing wrong with the history of bluegrass, we should also celebrate and look ahead to the future," Deschamps said.
The Della Mae, All Natural event is the third in the Mast Farm Inn's Bluegrass Legacy concerts.
"It's very exciting to have musicians of Della Mae's caliber coming to Valle Crucis to play," Deschamps said. "They are certainly a group to watch for the future, and they have many very interesting things in the works."

The concert takes place Tuesday, Feb. 23, from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the Mast Farm Inn at 2543 Broadstone Road in Valle Crucis. Seating for the event is limited, so reservations are required. Tickets are $25 per person. Ticket price includes soft drinks, beer and wine. For more information on the concert or to make reservations, contact the Mast Farm Inn at (828) 963-5857. Della Mae's Web site is http://www.heyheydellamae.com. For more information on The Bluegrass Legacy, visit http://www.facebook.com/the.bluegrass.legacy.

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