Album Review: Della Mae – Headlight

The new Della Mae album ‘Headlight’ is one of those rare albums that encapsulates everything that this blog stands for and hopes to promote, conveying the collective power of women’s voices through emotional and empathetic songs. The writing and musicianship from the band, made up of lead vocalist and guitarist Celia Woodsmith, fiddle player Kimber Ludiker and mandolinist Jenni Lynn Gardner, is pure quality throughout.

The album, produced by Dan Knobler who recently worked with Caroline Spence, opens with the astonishing title track, already a contender for one of the best songs of the year (and I don’t say that lightly). When I first heard this song I was floored. The power in these words, addressing the suffering of abused women, is breathtaking. Don’t let them ask you why / Oh why you didn’t speak up / you are a headlight in this dark night / they might not believe you / but I do. This song gives a voice to those who’ve endured such pain and also asks those who may not have experienced trauma to be allies in the fight. After all what happens to one woman, happens to all of us. A song like this is a beacon of hope and compassion that everyone should hear.

Soulful song Change has the added bliss of the McCrary Sisters on backup. The darkness won’t linger, they sing, reminding us to think to the future without fear. On ‘Working’ the sisters offer support again, and it’s one of the most brilliant vocal performances on the album, full of optimism and spirit.

These opening songs have grand, worthy ambitions to speak of wider truths in the world. They are nicely juxtaposed with more personal moments, like The Long Game, which includes a resolution to keep going through hardship. Waiting for You is a poignant look at infertility and the loneliness experienced by childless women.

If that all sounds serious then fear not, this album has a musical lightness of touch throughout, seen especially on euphoric love song I Like When You’re Home, bluegrass hoedown Peg Monster, floorfiller First Song Dancer and feminist fight song Wild One, about owning who you are no matter what judgement society places on you.

The album ends on a moment of honest reflection called I Can’t Pretend, which echoes the album dedication to those who are ‘courageous enough to speak the truth.’ Some truths are monumental horrors filled with pain and suffering; some are small moments of human failings. This song deals with both and finishes with a rallying call to open our eyes to ourselves, to the world around us, and ‘to listen and amend’. It’s advice all of us should take, not least the leaders of the free world.

Della Mae sound like a band brimming with confidence in their musicianship and songwriting, with damn good reason. Headlight walks unafraid in the direction of a better world, offering solace and songs to sing along to. Follow them and feel your spirit renewed.

The band play Celtic Connections on January 28th and also tour the U.K. and US – for full dates see their website.

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