The Steeldriversby The SteelDrivers
The Steel Drivers hail from Nashville, TN and concoct a sound that combines elements of tradition with contemporary flourishes. One might call the group's self-titled debut neo-acoustic. It's a sound that relies on mandolins, fiddles, and guitars, one that skirts bluegrass without being constricted by it. Banjoist Richard Bailey, bassist-vocalist Mike Fleming, mandolinist-vocalist Mike Henderson, fiddler-vocalist Tammy Rogers, and guitarist-lead vocalist Chris Stapleton deliver 11 full-bodied tracks on The Steel Drivers, highlighted by Stapleton's scratchy, Tom Waits meets bluegrass vocals. The fact that Stapleton's vocals serve as the band's calling card will make it easy for the the Steel Drivers to stand out among other neo-acoustic bands. But while the band's "big sound" -- Stapleton's hoarse vocals, the group harmony, and bright production -- really calls attention to itself one track at a time, it can be a bit bombastic song after song. The first three songs, "Blue Side of the Mountain," "Drinkin' Dark Whiskey," and "Midnight Train to Memphis" are like a one-two-three punch of sonic energy. "Midnight Tears" and "If You Can't Be Good, Be Gone" stick closer to bluegrass and offer a slight pause after the first three. But even here, the Steel Drivers' vocal attack along with the crisp production seldom allows the music a chance to breathe. The ballad-paced "Sticks That Made Thunder" is an exception to the rule, a track that winningly shows off the band's softer side. The Steel Drivers are a talented lot, and the sonic blast of many of these songs presented individually will probably take radio listeners by surprise. Taken as a whole, however, The Steel Drivers are stuck in overdrive.
- Release Date:
- Rounder / Umgd
Performance CreditsSteelDrivers Primary Artist
Mike Fleming Vocals
Tammy Rogers Fiddle,Vocals
Chris Stapleton Guitar,Vocals
Technical CreditsMike Henderson Composer
Buddy Miller Author
Tim O'Brien Liner Notes
Jerry Salley Composer
Jon Weisberger Liner Notes
Luke Wooten Producer,Engineer
Liz Hengber Composer
Chris Stapleton Composer
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While I have welcomed the revived enthusiasm for bluegrass in the last few years, I have heard little that moved beyond earnest homage, and few new songs in the genre that were memorable. The Steeldrivers mark a creative advance on both counts. The playing is exceptional — dead-on and driving while eschewing ostentacious virtuosity. Chris Stapleton’s growling, bluesy voice is certainly a departure from bluegrass norms, but an apt complement to the traditional instrumentation. But the songs are what distinguish The Steeldrivers’ debut. The lyrics and hooks are fresh and moving, without cliché or pointless noodling. My only disappointment is Mike Henderson’s sublimated role here. He co-wrote eight of the 11 songs, and I have to believe that his powerhouse blues background is largely responsible for this band’s distinctive hard-edged sound. But for a musician of his renown, his mandolin licks rarely stand out here. I look for him to step out a little more on The Steeldrivers’ next release.
I love this CD! I can honestly say I have not heard anything quite like it. Such a talented group of artists. Chris Stapleton has a truly unique and soulful voice. The steeldrivers are amazing live on stage...they never miss a lick!
Unique, playing is wonderful, loved the whole ensemble. Looking forward to the next CD.