The soph CD from the appropriately named driving bluegrass band The SteelDrivers is a swan song of sorts. No, the band is not heading towards oblivion, but this is the last disc with lead singer Chris Stapleton because he has decided to go back to songwriting (perhaps with good reason as he penned Never Wanted Nothing More for Kenny Chesney, Swing for Trace Adkins, Your Man for Josh Turner, Keep On Lovin' You for Steel Magnolia and Come Back Song for Darius Rucker). That's too bad for this ace quintet although they go out with a big bang.
Stapleton owns one mighty, full-bodied voice. The Kentucky native gives a soulful reading, holding notes (Good Corn Liquor), sounding tender (Can You Run) or giving a sense of sincerity, sometimes sadness (You Put the Hurt On Me) and always believability to the words (Where Rainbows Never Die and Peacemaker). His vocals are sometimes in sharp contrast to the music, providing a great edge on The Price, where he gets way down inside that has a very live feel to it.
This is a band filled with skilled, tuneful players, of course, with Mike Henderson on mandolin, Tammy Rogers on fiddle, Mike Fleming on bass and Richard Bailey on banjo. Once again, they go with a driving beat that meshes with Stapleton's vocals. Songs call for varying instruments to power the music (for example, banjo for a good chunk of Can You Run to fiddle (Midnight on the Mountain).
Gary Nichols was named to replace Stapleton. Those will be mighty huge boots to fill as Stapleton is a gigantic loss to a band with two excellent releases under its belt. This chapter of The SteelDrivers is shut tight. Stapleton and company ended on a very high note.