Archive for the The Steeldrivers Category

Friday Notes: Grammy Nominees, Lucinda, and a Little Blog Love

Posted in Jill Andrews, Lucinda Williams, Rosanne Cash, The Steeldrivers on December 3, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

*First off… I want to say how excited I am to have my blog featured in The Metro Pulse this week.  The Metro Pulse is Knoxville’s weekly free news magazine focusing on local news and issues with a strong focus on arts and entertainment in our city.  This week’s cover story is about local blogs and bloggers.  I was fortunate enough that A Fifty Cent Lighter & A Whiskey Buzz was one of the blogs mentioned.

Those of you in Knoxville know where to pick up a copy, but since the biggest portion of you aren’t from here… you can read my interview here and check out the other featured blogs.

*Grammy nominees were announced yesterday, and (as usual) the nominees are mostly mainstream acts that I don’t particularly care about.  However, there are several Americana and Roots categories work checking out as well as a handful of Americana acts nominated in other categories.  Patty Griffin is nominated for “Best Traditional Gospel Album” for Downtown Church, and The Steeldrivers are up for “Best Bluegrass Album” and “Best Country Performance by a Duo of Group with Vocals.”  Marty Stuart, Ryan Bingham, Steve Earle, and Lucinda Williams & Elvis Costello are also nominated in various categories.

This is year two of the “Best Americana Album” category, and the nominees are fairly solid.  Rosanne Cash won Album of the Year at the Americana Music Awards for her album The List.  She’s nominated here along side Robert Plant’s Band of Joy, Willie Nelson’s Country Music, Los Lobos’ Tin Can Trust, and Mavis Staples’ You Are Not Alone.  My money is on Cash or Plant.

Rosanne Cash: Motherless Children (Buy Album)
The Steeldrivers: Where Rainbows Never Die (Buy Album)

*Lucinda Williams is working on a new album.  Blessed is produced by Don Was and should be out in March.

*Knoxville’s Jill Andrews is working on a new one as well.  The former member of the everybodyfields is asking for help from her fans to fund the release of her first full length solo album The Mirror.  You can find out how to help here.

Friday Notes: Chely Wright, Tift Merritt, & More

Posted in Chely Wright, Jompson Brothers Band, The Steeldrivers, Tift Merritt on June 18, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

It’s been a while since I’ve thrown out a notes column. So… Here we go.

*** First. Don’t forget to register for the Mary Gauthier giveaway contest. I’ve had a nice response so far, but would still like to see more people register. Leave a comment here, send me an email, or comment on the blog’s facebook page to enter.

*** I never really listened much (or at all) to Chely Wright when she was topping the Country Music charts a decade ago with songs like “Single White Female.” I’ll have to admit, though, that all the publicity surrounding Wright’s recent personal announcement and release of her new album Lifted Off the Ground intrigued me. She had a personal story to tell and got Rodney Crowell involved to help her tell it. I’m also always happy to see someone leave behind the pre-fab world of Music Row to make an organic and honest record. And honesty is the key word here. By being honest with herself and her fans about who she really is, Wright is able to be honest with her music as well.

You can go here to read the full review of Chely Wright’s Lifted Off the Ground that I wrote for Country Standard Time.
Chely Wright: Broken (Buy Album)
*** Back in April, I told you officially what I had already known for a while… Chris Stapleton is no longer with The Steeldrivers. While this is devastating news to most, there are a couple of silver linings to the cloud. The first is that The Steeldrivers are continuing as a band with Gary Nichols handling the vocals. Even better news is that, before leaving the band, Stapleton went into the studio with the original group to record their sophomore album.
But, that’s all old news. The new news is that that The Steeldrivers’ sophomore album, Reckless, will be released in September from Rounder Records. I’ll be waiting very impatiently for that album to arrive. While you’re waiting for Reckless to arrive, you can listen to Stapleton wail with his rocking new project, The Jompson Brothers.

*** Finally… You’ll want to be sure to tune in to the Feature at Five this coming Wednesday on WDVX. I’ll be hosting the Feature that day, and I’ll be joined in the studio by none other than Tift Merritt for an interview and performance. Merritt is in Knoxville Wednesday for a concert at The Square Room as part of her tour to support her new album See You on the Moon (listen to my review here).

You can listen to the interview live Wednesday afternoon at 5:00 (Eastern) by following the Listen Live link on the WDVX website. Later that night, Merritt will perform with opening act Thad Cockrell at The Square Room. Cockrell will also perform live on WDVX earlier in the day. He’ll appear on The Blue Plate Special at noon. You can hear that performance live as well.
And just so you know that I listened to those of you who voted in the poll for me to include mp3’s with my audio reviews… this is “Mixtape” from See You on the Moon. Sorry to leave you all hanging last time. Speaking as the kid who used to record songs straight to tape off the radio and still makes an annual “Best of The Year” mix CD each December… I can really relate to this one.
Tift Merritt: Mixtape (Buy Album)

Chris Stapleton Leaves The Steeldrivers

Posted in The Steeldrivers on April 13, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

This is something I’ve known for a while now, but I’ve been waiting for the band to make an official announcement. Chris Stapleton (middle above) is leaving The Steeldrivers to focus on his songwriting and his family. The official announcement was made last week (I just saw it today).

The good news is that The Steeldrivers have already recorded their follow up to 2008’s Grammy nominated self titled debut album, and Chris does provide vocals for that album.
Chris’ departure does not mean the band is calling it quits. The Steeldrivers will continue to tour and play with new singer/guitarist Gary Nichols.
I am sad that Chris is leaving the band, but excited for his future prospects. I think The Steeldrivers just got much bigger, much faster than anyone anticipated, and all the time on the road burning from town to town just started to take a toll. I know Chris will be happy spending more time at home with his family and his songs. Hopefully, though, the itch to take those songs on the road will strike again in the future. I’ve also heard a few of the songs that are supposed to be on the next record. I doubt it will disappoint.
I could go on here about Chris, and what he meant to the band’s sound and how hard it will be to replace him… but Steeldrivers co-founder Mike Henderson has already done that better than I ever could. Read his comments at the bottom of this article.
I just want to say that I’m proud of my friend for what he accomplished with this band, and I wish him the best.
Here’s a live track from the band’s early days. The Buy Album link points to their studio release.
The Steeldrivers: Heaven Sent (Buy Album)

Random Weekend Post: Last Year’s Best New & Emerging Artist… Mike Farris

Posted in Mike Farris, The Steeldrivers on August 22, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

Yesterday, I introduced you to this year’s nominees for “Best New & Emerging Artist” at this year’s Americana Music Awards & Honors. Today, I’ll share with you the artist who won the award last year… Mike Farris.

Notes: One Wild Weekend Ahead

Posted in Allison Moorer, Brendon James Wright, Chris Knight, Gillian Welch, Justin Townes Earle, Kasey Chambers, Shane Nicholson, Steve Earle, The Felice Brothers, The Steeldrivers, Van Eaton and Friends on August 13, 2009 by AmericanaPulse
This is a HUGE musical weekend in Knoxville, and I’ll tell you all about it… but first…

***I want to start off this post by wishing a Happy Anniversary to Steve Earle and Allison Moorer. The Americana power couple celebrated their fourth wedding anniversary on Tuesday.

I still remember when I first heard the rumours that the two were becoming involved with each other. In fact, I think I probably had the info a little sooner than most outside observers. I got the scoop from my music director at the time, who had heard it directly from an “industry insider,” who probably got it from Allison’s hairdresser’s cousin’s friend. That’s the way these things typically get started… right?

Anyway, I quickly dismissed the rumours as false. He was too old for her, and she was too pretty for him. It couldn’t be true.

Only, it was. And it is. And they still seem to be going strong. So here’s to four years together for Steve and Allison. May there be many more happy years and great music in their future. Here’s a tune Steve Earle wrote about his bride. It comes from 2008’s Washington Square Serenade.

Steve Earle: Sparkle & Shine (Buy Album)

***Now… on to this weekend’s festivities. It’s one of those weekends where you get really excited once you hear of all the shows, and all of the artists, that are coming to town, and then immediately get upset once you realize that there is no way to see them all. It almost breaks my heart to list all the acts I won’t be seeing this weekend.

It starts Thursday night when Brendan James Wright and the Wrongs play a free show as part of the new “Old City Live” concert series. I’m working late at my day job Thursday night… so no show for me.

Friday night is even worse. Chris Knight just added a date at The Shed in Maryville, and there’s also this thing at the World’s Fair Park called The Big Surprise Tour… maybe you’ve heard of it. The Old Crow Medicine Show, Gillian Welch, David Rawlings, Justin Townes Earle, and The Felice Brothers. Apparently, it’s one of those shows where everybody plays with everybody else and no two shows are the same. It’s a once in a lifetime show with a once in a lifetime collection of talent… and I’ll on the air at WDVX and completely unable to attend.
Never fear though… Payton from This Mornin’ I am Born Again is making the trip from Texas to Tennessee for the Big Surprise show. I’m sure he’ll share his impressions of the show with us once he makes it back to Texas. In the meantime, you can go to his site to hear some live tracks from the Big Surprise participants.

***Saturday night, I finally get to see a show for myself when Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson come to the Bijou Theatre. I’m choosing not to think about the fact that I have to miss out on seeing my friends Van Eaton of Van Eaton and Friends and Chris Stapleton of The Steeldrivers play as part of Stringtime in the Smokies to do it.

Instead, I’m looking forward to finally meeting the artist who probably did more than any other in terms of pulling me into the world of Americana Music. She introduced me to so many great artists, and literally changed my musical world. I’m fairly certain that I would not be writing this blog or working at WDVX if not for my first chance encounter with her music. I’ll be able to thank her for that on Saturday. What’s more… I’ll get to introduce her to the crowd at the Bijou as well. I’ll be emceeing the show.
It almost makes up for missing everything else this weekend.
Here’s one from Kasey and Shane’s 2008 release Rattlin’ Bones (one of my favorites of ’08), and a live track of Kasey covering Lucinda Williams’ “Changed the Locks.”
Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson: Once in a While (Buy Album)
Kasey Chambers: Changed the Locks (Buy Music)

Top 10 Albums of 2008: #9 The Steeldrivers by The Steeldrivers

Posted in The Steeldrivers, Top 10 of '08 on December 23, 2008 by AmericanaPulse

Like R.E.M. before them at #10, there is a bit of a sentimental factor behind my inclusion of The Steeldrivers on this list. But, like R.E.M. before them, The Steeldrivers are also on the list based on their own merits after making my favorite bluegrass album of the year. Others seemed to agree with me… as the album was nominated for an Americana Music Award, three International Bluegrass Music Awards, and a Grammy this year.

The story of The Steeldrivers is this. A pair of Nashville songwriters, Chris Stapleton and Mike Henderson found themselves writing a lot of really great bluegrass songs, then turning those songs over to music row and watching them be turned into mainstream country hits for other artists. Eventually the obvious question could no longer be ignored… why not form a killer bluegrass band and record those same songs themselves?

Stapleton grabbed his guitar. Henderson picked up his mandolin. The two then assembled a very talented group of Nashville veterans to help flesh out their sound. Fiddler Tammy Rogers (Buddy Miller, Kieran Kane, Wynona), banjo picker Richard Bailey (Jim Lauderdale, David Olney, Vassar Clements), and bass player Mike Fleming (Kevin Welch, Joy Lynn White) signed up, and the band was born.

The true stars of this band, though, are songwriters Henderson and Stapleton. Henderson has played and recorded with giants from every corner of the music world including Mark Knopfler, Guy Clark, Bo Diddley, Lucinda Williams, and Sting… just to name a few. His songs have been recorded by the likes of Solomon Burke, Randy Travis, Patty Loveless, Marty Stuart, and The Dixie Chicks.

Stapleton is the youngest member of the group… and his time in Nashville the shortest. His list of credits, however, is easily as impressive as any of his bandmates. He’s recorded with Lee Ann Womack and Gary Allan, and has had his songs recorded by Womack, Tim McGraw, and Brooks and Dunn. He even has two number one country singles to his credit in Josh Turner’s “Your Man” and Kenny Chesney’s “Never Wanted Nothing More.” Most importantly, Chris Stapleton is one of my oldest friends and someone I couldn’t be more proud of. He chased a dream he’s held for almost as long as I’ve known him, and he caught it.

In addition to co-writing every song on the album, Stapleton also plays guitar and sings lead vocals. If you’ll pardon the cliche… his voice is by far his strongest instrument. The Steeldrivers’ website describes his voice as being able to turn from “sandpaper to silk” in the course of any given song. When really turned loose, as in songs like “Blue Side of the Mountain” and “If it Hadn’t Been for Love,” there is a power behind his voice that few can rival. There is a natural growl in his performance that fits perfectly with the band’s sound and lends a genuine sense of realism to the down and out characters in the songs. Stapleton sings about murderers, scoundrels, inmates, and fugitives… and breathes life into them all.

You can say I’m biased in this choice by including my friend on my list… but I know plenty of strangers who have become enamored with this album as well. It has more than earned it’s place.

The Steeldrivers: If it Hadn’t Been for Love (Buy Album)
The Steeldrivers: Blue Side of the Mountain (Buy Album)

Links and such…

Posted in Alison Krauss, Buddy and Julie Miller, Neko Case, Robert Plant, Scott Miller, Tennessee Shines, The Steeldrivers, youtube on December 9, 2008 by AmericanaPulse

Just a few links to get you through the week…

* Scott Miller has made his new CD For Crying Out Loud available for pre-order at his website. Only 1,000 copies will be offered between now and December 17th online and at Miller’s shows… and once they’re gone, they’re gone. Orders placed before the 17th should arrive by Christmas. If you don’t get in on the pre-order, then you have to wait until March for the official release. All pre-order copies also include an enhanced CD feature with a twenty minute video on the making of the album that will not be on the official release. Oh yeah… Patty Griffin appears on the album as well. Get yours now.

* A couple of local acts have been added to this month’s edition of Tennessee Shines. Knoxville’s own Alex Leach and the Watauga Mountain Boys, Todd Steed and the Sons of Phere, and Christabel and The Jons will join Elizabeth Cook and The Hackensaw Boys for the show on New Year’s Eve. As always, the show will be hosted by Jim Lauderdale and broadcast live on WDVX.

* In my Top 5 post on Neko Case, I mentioned that she has just finished recording her new album. Well… the album now has a name (Middle Cyclone), a release date (March 3), and a killer album cover…

* March 3rd is also the release date for Buddy and Julie Miller’s newest effort, Written in Chalk. It comes eight years after their last collaboration, the self titled, Buddy and Julie Miller. Julie has been in ill health for the last few years, and it will be great to hear her voice once again. Julie wrote the majority of the songs on the album, and friends Patty Griffin, Emmylou Harris, and Robert Plant come along for the ride on the album. Here’s a taste of that 2001 release…

Buddy and Julie Miller: Forever has Come to an End (Buy Album)

* Speaking of Robert Plant… The nominees for the 51st Annual Grammy Awards were announced last week, and the world of Americana was well represented. The Robert Plant and Alison Krauss collaboration that took home two wins at the Americana Music Awards in September, is now nominated for five Grammys… including Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Pop Collaboration with Vocals, Country Collaboration with Vocals, and Contemporary Folk/Americana Album. Competition in the Americana category includes Joan Baez, Ry Cooder, Rodney Crowell, and Emmylou Harris.

* The biggest news for me on the Grammy front, however, is the news that The Steeldrivers have been nominated for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals for the song, “Blue Side of the Mountain.” As long-time readers know, Steeldrivers’ lead singer Chris Stapleton is an old high school buddy of mine, and I could not be more thrilled for the success he is having in Nashville.