Catching Up on Roots Departures and Breakups

From left, Della Mae (with Courtney Hartman at far right) and the Stray Birds

While you were lighting fireworks last week (or perhaps participating in a hot-dog eating contest?), some well-loved roots bands were making news.

On Thursday, Della Mae announced that guitarist Courtney Hartman is leaving the band after eight years. According to a statement from the band on their website, “Courtney wishes to spend less time on the road so she can be closer to her family and devote time to a variety of other musical pursuits.” As they have with previous departures, it appears that Della Mae will continue on. The statement mentions some upcoming performances with banjo player Alison Brown and Bonnie Payne of Elephant Revival, as well as writing for their next album.

The statement said that Hartman, who released an album of John Hartford songs with Robert Ellis last year, has her own new music in the works. 

On Friday, the Stray Birds announced that they are disbanding, despite having announced a new album, Let It Pass, that is still slated for release in September. “We will no longer be performing or recording together, and we have cancelled our fall tour,” according to a statement posted on the band’s Facebook page.

The Stray Birds, from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, started as a duo with Maya de Vitry and Oliver Craven. Bassist Charlie Muench joined later to make it a trio. Their previous album, 2016’s Magic Fire, was produced by Larry Campbell and released on Yep Roc Records.

Neither of these announcements were welcome news in my mind. While the Della Mae ladies have taken time apart and delved into different side projects, The Stray Birds announcement caught me completely off guard! While as fans and followers of a band you wish they could go on forever, the numbers are not in your favor. I am sure from their announcement that it was a difficult decision especially with a highly anticipated upcoming release, Let It Pass.

I'm disappointed that I won't get to hear their collective creative passions any longer. I'm quite sure this musical world will hear much more from Maya DeVitry in the future once these issues settle. She is a gem who I favorably compare to Gillian Welch. I wish Oliver Craven and Charlie Muench the same good luck in their creative futures as well. I'll miss their creativity and passion.