Jeffrey Steele

Countrypolitan – 2008 (3 Ring Circus)

Reviewed by Jessica Phillips

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CDs by Jeffrey Steele

Songwriting master Jeffrey Steele has taken a chance that even few top-selling artists would take: releasing three albums simultaneously, including this calm, string-laden effort.

Steele trades in his jeans for a suit, a beer bottle for a cigar and a glass of brandy, and his electric axe for a piano and string section. Most startling, this well-known writer (who has penned more than 60 hits for acts like Tim McGraw and Montgomery Gentry) mostly foregoes his own compositions to cover country classics. The only Steele tunes are the gorgeously crafted My Whiskey Years and Love Make a Fool.

Maybe the Steele-man has gone soft? Not quite. This eclectic artist has the vocal elasticity and musical depth to take on hits by some of the greatest songwriters of our time, including For the Good Times (Kris Kristofferson) and Nightlife" (Willie Nelson).

Steele generally doesn't go overboard with trying to put his own mark on the songs, but with his naturally unique vocals and such excellent songs, he doesn't need to. He is wonderfully subdued and gentle with Angels Flying Too Close to the Ground and Behind Closed Doors, a far cry from his usual raucous or passionate deliveries. He does give the road classic Route 66 a nice jazzy twist, and brings on the soul with Don't You Get Tired of Hurting Me

Overall, this is a nice ode to Steele's forerunners, and it showcases this singer/songwriter's artistic depth and respect for his craft.