That’s mostly due to the Asheville band’s haunting vocals by Anya Hinkle, who channels Gillian Welch at times with her intonations. I saw Hinkle (who also plays fiddle) and her band mates (Bryan Clendenin on mandolin, Stacy Claude on guitar and vocals, Aaron Ballance on Dobro and Greg “Stig” Stiglets on standup bass) at their Aug. 14 show at The Grey Eagle.
The band was celebrating its one-year anniversary and played to a half-full house. That’s too bad, because a band can get to feeling a little too lonely. Dehlia Low, while obviously still finding its footing, has a lot going for it.
Hinkle’s striking sound is softened and sweetened considerably by Claude’s harmonizing. Together, their old-timey sound enlivens the mix of traditional music and original tunes the band plays. The group notes that its numbers are strongly influenced by the likes of Hazel Dickens, the Stanley Brothers, James King and others.
The acoustic band sounds tight and talented and as far as musicianship goes, the real star of Dehlia Low is Clendenin on mandolin. The guy can flat out play. Standing in the center of the band on stage, Clendenin steps up to the microphone in traditional bluegrass style when it’s his turn to be in the spotlight. But even in the shadows, Clendenin shines. He exudes an energy and personality that really helps the audience connect with the band.
Lovers of bluegrass will notice right off that the band doesn’t have a banjo player. I found myself missing its pluck here and there, but I got over it. Clendenin’s mandolin power, augmented by Hinkle’s fiddle, Claude’s guitar, the steady bass of Stiglets and the beautiful Dobro playing of Ballance combine for that sweet, high lonesome sound, a sound that doesn’t necessarily mean sad.
Dehlia Low inspires plenty of toe tapping. But overall, The Grey Eagle set I listened to verged on the repetitive, and didn’t feature enough of the band’s vocals. I especially wanted more after band members sang, a cappella, what they said was a brand-new song featuring plenty of “hallelujahs” and “hey-de-heys.”
Sing more, Dehlia Low, sing more.