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The Steel Wheels

No More Rain – 2013 (The Steel Wheels)

Reviewed by John Walker

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CDs by The Steel Wheels

It is sometimes an unwise decision to look back at music written years ago, and try to breathe new life into them. Perhaps there was a reason these songs never inspired a budding audience or career at that time. Well, that is just what The Steel Wheels have done with their new release "No More Rain," but after one listen many may wonder what took so long for these songs to find their way out once again.

Of the 12 songs released here there is only 1 cover, which just so happens to open the record and contain the lyric for which the album is named. Tom Waits' Walk Away is a great choice here, with the aching vocals of Trent Wagler delivering a heartfelt passionate plea.

What sets The Steel Wheels from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia apart from many bands is the combination of their stellar instrumentals, accentuated by the one of a kind lead vocal of Wagler, and keenly supported by strong harmonies. Eric Brubaker on fiddle, Jay Lapp on mandolin, and Brian Dickel on bass weave in and out intricately throughout this record, painting vivid imagery which flows effortlessly, just teasing the lyrics enough to allow them to resonate within you.

The 11 originals were written by Wagler more than 8 years ago, before the band had formed. The story of how they found each other is interesting, almost by fate. The work done to take these songs and blend them together with the full band truly shines. The balance of trying not to overdo the production (TSW self-produced) and allow the songs to speak for themselves is extremely delicate, but handled quite well.

There are numerous highlights that will hit home with the listener. The religious significance or uplifting tone to many of these songs add to their impact. From beginning to end, you can pick a lyric of almost any song, hear the lonesome fiddle of Brubaker or mandolin of Lapp toying with you as you are swept away into a mesmerizing musical euphoria.