Hammer Down

The SteelDrivers

Rounder Records, 2013


REVIEW BY: Curtis Jones


What happens in Nashville cannot stay in Nashville. Especially when it involves solid musicians.  Case in point: the SteelDrivers.  This group of Music City session musicians turned bluegrass band offers a traditional sound with a blues twist which is at once both familiar and refreshing on their third offering my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Hammer Down

Each of the SteelDrivers can boast of their own musical accomplishments.  Nashville, as a nexus for the country music scene, produces musicians like Detroit once produced cars. Many of these guys are far more talented than the pretty faces they backup, too. So a combination of session musicians in a band makes a powerful supergroup. 

Within this solid concoction, the SteelDrivers is anchored by the bluesy voice of lead singer Gary Nichols and the fiddle work of Tammy Rogers. Nichols’ voice is unusual for the genre, but it works wonders for the material, which consists of original songs contributed by current and past band members. A murder ballad like "Shallow Grave," or a violent cheating heart lover song like "When You Don't Come Home,” could have been done by any other bluegrass band.  But the gravel in the lead vocal really sets this apart. "Burning The Woodshed Down" evokes a powerful image of an emotionally scarred child with a tune that is catchy. It’s the best song on the album.  The group also slows it down with some powerful ballads like "I'll Be There” and "Lonesome Goodbye" but also has some fun on the honky-tonk themed "Wearin' A Hole."   

After years of being session backups, the SteelDrivers is making a place for themselves in the bluegrass field that should last for a while and with a sound that could perhaps be contagious. 

Rating: B+

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