Even with two of the band’s founding members having parted ways, Hammer Down resonates with a noticeable progression in comparison to The SteelDrivers' preceding album, Reckless. New guitarist Gary Nichols co-penned the opening “Shallow Grave,” an unsettling yet harmonious murder ballad that (with some help from Tammy Rogers’ classic fiddle playing) is the most traditional-sounding tune here. On the following “How Long Have I Been Your Fool,” we’re reminded that The SteelDrivers comprise some of Nashville’s A-list session players. With Rogers cementing three-part harmonies that have more in common with Fleetwood Mac than The Cox Family, the song shares some DNA with Little Big Town. Even Brent Truitt’s mandolin parts here play with the progressive dexterity of Nickel Creek–era Chris Thile. Although The SteelDrivers' approach to musicianship and singing strays from the traditional string-band blueprint, songs like “When You Don’t Come Home” and “Cry No Mississippi” retain the genre’s tendency to contrast melancholy subject matter with uplifting melodies.