11 Songs, 38 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

The SteelDrivers carved out an enviable space for themselves in the late 2000s by tweaking the familiar bluegrass band model in a couple of major ways: Instead of keening, high-and-lonesome vocals, they featured Southern rock and soul belting, and instead of building a repertoire on standards, they pooled blues-shaded standards written by their members. Those elements are still there, in evolving form, on the group’s fifth album, on which fiddler Tammy Rogers, banjo player Richard Bailey, mandolinist Brent Truitt, and bassist Mike Fleming are joined by their third lead singer to date, bluegrass newbie Kelvin Damrell. Like his predecessors Chris Stapleton and Gary Nichols, Damrell musters full-bodied, heavily Southern-accented grit, though there’s a vulnerability to his voice when he’s in confessional mode, like during “Falling Man.” Rogers and others provided Damrell with tunes that illustrate the high stakes of disregarding moral codes, the title track, “The Bartender,” and “Innocent Man” among them. The band's playing, characterized by slow-burning precision, enhances the storytelling.

EDITORS’ NOTES

The SteelDrivers carved out an enviable space for themselves in the late 2000s by tweaking the familiar bluegrass band model in a couple of major ways: Instead of keening, high-and-lonesome vocals, they featured Southern rock and soul belting, and instead of building a repertoire on standards, they pooled blues-shaded standards written by their members. Those elements are still there, in evolving form, on the group’s fifth album, on which fiddler Tammy Rogers, banjo player Richard Bailey, mandolinist Brent Truitt, and bassist Mike Fleming are joined by their third lead singer to date, bluegrass newbie Kelvin Damrell. Like his predecessors Chris Stapleton and Gary Nichols, Damrell musters full-bodied, heavily Southern-accented grit, though there’s a vulnerability to his voice when he’s in confessional mode, like during “Falling Man.” Rogers and others provided Damrell with tunes that illustrate the high stakes of disregarding moral codes, the title track, “The Bartender,” and “Innocent Man” among them. The band's playing, characterized by slow-burning precision, enhances the storytelling.

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