Tuesday, June 16, 2015
MUSIC REVIEW OF THE DAY: THE STEELDRIVERS - THE MUSCLE SHOALS RECORDINGS
The SteelDrivers are one of the top bluegrass outfits around, thanks to an unbeatable combination of expert playing, superb vocals and catchy songwriting. I'm sure they know lots of the old stuff, but this is a group looking to forge their own way as writers, and add their own twist. The difference they bring is a soulful edge, bringing the Bill Monroe sound down south to Alabama, recording the album in the legendary studio town that has given birth to so many great albums.
Not many bands can survive the loss of two main members, but The SteelDrivers have been able to attract the tremendous singer and writer Gary Nichols, who hits plenty of beautiful and aching high notes. Fiddler Tammy Rogers is right there adding the strong harmony, as well as contributing four of the songs.
Somehow the group has kept the spirit of the original quintet even with two new members, and come up with true gems in Nichols and mandolin player Brent Truitt. In a group full of virtuosos, none of them show off, it's all about that perfect blend. A bonus in adding Nichols is that he brought along his lifelong pal, Jason Isbell. The former Drive-By Trucker is another Muscle Shoals regular, and he produced two of the album cuts here, and added slide guitar. It's all proof-positive that bluegrass is far from old-timey these days, full of some of the best performing and songwriting of the roots scene.