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The SteelDrivers

The SteelDrivers – 2008 (Rounder)

Reviewed by Linda Dailey Paulson

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CDs by The SteelDrivers

Much has been made of the growing diversity of sound within the bluegrass genre and from the opening vocals of "Blue Side of the Mountain," The SteelDrivers demonstrate unequivocally that they are determined to put the blues back into bluegrass.

Chris Stapleton is responsible for the gritty, soulful vocals that set this band apart from any others on the scene today; he plays guitar and is an accomplished songwriter (Tim McGraw, Brad Paisley, Lee Ann Womack). Other SteelDrivers include Nashville veterans Mike Henderson (mandolin/guitar/vocals), Tammy Rogers on vocals and fiddle, Richard Bailey (banjo) and Mike Fleming (bass).

Although tracks like "Midnight Tears" with its plaintive harmony vocals may sound like they came directly from either the Monroe or Stanley catalogue, all the songs are wholly original. Other standouts include "Drinkin' Dark Whiskey," "If It Hadn't Been for Love" and "To Be with You Again."

The ensemble walks that lovely musical line between being solidly tight and fluidly loose that few groups do so well. Better yet, there is a lively passion captured in these performances. The combination is exciting, refreshing and makes for compelling listening time and again. Strongly recommended.