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The SteelDrivers

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Album Review

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. ~ Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr., Rovi

Customer Reviews

Mind-blowingly good

I'm really struggling with how to describe how incredible this album is - I hope y'all can forgive a little hyperbole. The first thing you notice is the sound of Stapleton's voice - a pained and soulful rumble of raspy thunder. These guys know their stuff - they ALL have the chops, and it shows the more you listen to it. Its not pure bluegrass, although it has the traditional bluegrass instrumentation. Its not pure blues, although Stapleton's vocal dynamics alone convey as much loss and trouble as any delta bluesman you can name. What it is, is something completely mesmerizing. At once new and old, familiar and fresh, this album will stick to you like the hottest and most humid summer air. There are no drums, but I swear you'll hear hammers laying track in the distance.

The SteelDrivers

As a Heavy Metal guy, discovering The SteelDrivers wasn't likely. Until someone suggested "give 'em a listen." Listen I did!! Then I obviously had to go see them. Wow! What a wondeful explosion of sonic bliss! I can't seem to put into words how the bluesy undertones just grab your soul and make you want to move! You never notice there are no drums, because your heart will change it's rythem and thump along with every tune. WOW!


This band really shows their bluegrass roots not only soulful songs but also some fun pickin to boot....don't hesitate if you like bluegrass you will find yourself listening to this album a ton, and thats good right? Heck.... Just buy it!


Formed: 2005 in Nashville, TN

Genre: Country

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Specializing in a unique mix of what might be called bluegrass soul, the SteelDrivers have featured a group of veteran Nashville session players including Richard Bailey on banjo, Mike Fleming on bass, Mike Henderson on mandolin, Tammy Rogers on fiddle, and Chris Stapleton on guitar and lead vocals. Stapleton's bluesy, hoarse, and Tom Waits-like singing really set the SteelDrivers apart in the often generic contemporary bluegrass genre, where a high and lonesome tenor lead vocal is typically heard....
Full Bio
The SteelDrivers, The SteelDrivers
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Customer Ratings