Sunday, 9 March, 2008 7:12 PM
CMA New Artist Spotlight: The
by David McClister
recording artists The SteelDrivers
2008 CMA Close Up News Service
That old saying about
the whole being greater than the sum of its parts may or may not
apply to The SteelDrivers. It sounds true, though, when you spin
the band's self-titled debut album, a set of 11 originals that sound
like they've been carved in wood and left in the hills to weather
and age. Playing with a breezy virtuosity, these five musicians
interact, keeping tempos down to the point they can bounce ideas
around spontaneously and allow listeners to hear what's happening.
A dynamic and organic
ensemble, The SteelDrivers are also a stellar collection of individuals.
Banjo player Richard Bailey, bassist Mike Fleming, mandolinist Mike
Henderson, fiddler Tammy Rogers and guitarist Chris Stapleton, all
of whom except for Bailey contribute vocals as well, each boasts
impressive session credits, from a long line of Country colossuses
to Neil Diamond, Bo Diddley, Al Green and Sting.
The SteelDrivers deliver
a powerful statement on their album on Rounder Records. Co-produced
by Luke Wooten with the band, it offers fireworks but concentrates
on framing Stapleton's rugged singing on the spirit-haunted "Blue
Side of the Mountain," wafting them through the churning rhythm
of "Drinkin' Dark Whiskey" and hitting the power-chord
riffs in the verses to "Midnight Train to Memphis." And
when the four-part harmonies kick in, the effect is smooth and raw
at the same time, a blend as mysterious as the riddle of how five
strong talents do add up to making this single and indelible impression.
IN THEIR OWN
Mike Henderson: "Ray Charles."
SECRET DREAM DUET
Tammy Rogers: "Emmylou Harris."
BOOK ON YOUR NIGHTSTAND
Richard Bailey: "Ava's Man, by Rick Bragg."
SONG YOU WISH YOU
Chris Stapleton: "'What a Wonderful World.'"
A PHRASE YOU REPEAT
Mike Fleming: "'Hell is Real,' a billboard sign on I-65 just
outside of Louisville, strategically placed across the road from
the adult truck stop."
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