The SteelDrivers’ innovative, soulful brand of bluegrass has made them one of the most successful bands on the contemporary bluegrass scene. The band, which has earned three Grammy nominations and garnered tremendous critical acclaim, has announced their fourth album for Rounder, The Muscle Shoals Recordings, which will be released on June 16, 2015.
In celebration of the release, the band has a special event planned at 116 E. Mobile Street, in Florence, AL, on June 17th at 8pm. Tickets available here. The evening will feature a full concert performance from The SteelDrivers themselves in the intimate 150 capacity venue, co-run by Single Lock Records (owners Will Trapp, Ben Tanner (Alabama Shakes), John Paul White (Civil Wars)). There will also be a meet and greet with the band from 6-7pm before the show at Billy Reid with food available to the public from local southern inspired restaurant Odette’s.
The SteelDrivers will also be performing on Muscle Shoals to Music Row Live, June 18th. Tickets for the 2 hour live radio broadcast/webcast are available on the website. It can also be streamed worldwide on www.kix96country.com.
The album is largely inspired by Muscle Shoals, an area of confluence and consequence, of intermingling, experimentation, and exultation, and a legendary music mecca. It’s also the hometown of the SteelDrivers’ lead vocalist and guitarist Gary Nichols, whose bandmates – fiddler and vocalist Tammy Rogers, banjoist Richard Bailey, mandolinist Brent Truitt, and bassist and singer Mike Fleming – made the two-and-a-half hour trek from Nashville to Sheffield, Alabama, to the NuttHouse Recording Studio to record eleven new original tunes, mostly written by Rogers and Nichols.
There, they conjured a singularly compelling sound, drenched in soul, blues, bluegrass, R&B, country, and rock’n’roll. Jason Isbell – Nichols’ friend and musical compatriot since childhood, and himself an extraordinary singer, songwriter, and guitarist – co-produced two of the album’s 11 tracks and contributed slide guitar to two (the aforementioned “Brother John, ” and “Ashes of Yesterday”).
Gary Nichols has emerged as a vocalist of distinction, as a monster acoustic guitarist, and as a songwriting force who wrote or co-wrote five of Shoals Recordings’ 11 songs, including the plaintive “Here She Goes,” and the dark ballad “Brother John.” Tammy Rogers stepped up her songwriting as well, and she has credits on all but one of the album’s remaining songs, including the stirring waltz “Ashes of Yesterday,” and the somber, reflective album closer, “River Runs Red,” a meditation on the Civil War. Richard Bailey composed the lone instrumental, the joyous, rousing “California Chainsaw.” The one outlier on The Muscle Shoals Recordings is “Drinkin’ Alone,” a romp penned by Jay Knowles and former SteelDriver Chris Stapleton.
Rolling Stone Country recently premiered “Brother John,” which features slide guitar by Jason Isbell, who also co-produced the track. Listen to it here: http://rol.st/1bp4HxN
The SteelDrivers have inspired accolades from critics like NPR’s Ann Powers, who praised their “dazzling bluegrass musicianship,” and PopMatters’ Arnold Pan, who extolled the band’s “virtuosic ‘bluesgrass’ songs that take classic Americana instrumentation and give it an intense, soulful inflection.”
One thing is for sure: Nichols and the SteelDrivers speak in their own accent, one that charms and sears and beguiles. This is a band like no other, by inclination, but not by calculation.