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Artist Spotlight: The SteelDrivers

– Kerry Souder, Roots N Blues Intern

“Start around two minutes and ten seconds into ‘Long Way Down.’”

That was the piece of advice I read after looking up The SteelDrivers. Without any prior knowledge on the band or their style, I was pleasantly caught off guard by lead singer Gary Nichols’ unique voice and the band’s folky, country feel.

The band originated in Nashville, Tennessee, where musicians are as common as any other profession. Aside from Nichols, the other members include Richard Bailey on the banjo, Brent Truitt on the mandolin, Mike Fleming on bass, and Tammy Rogeers, who sings and plays the fiddle. Each of the members are  veterans in the music industry in one way or another, and from collaborating with their styles, have fused into a new genre of music.

You may hear “Drinkin’ Dark Whiskey” and think you have the band’s style pegged down, but then you hear “To Be With You Again” and you’re back to square one. And those songs are both on the same album. Now just imagine the diversity in their work between a couple of years. The best I can say is they created an original mixture of country, soul and blues among other contemporary influences. Do yourself a favor and don’t try to label them; just appreciate them for what they are. And what they are is a really great band.

The SteelDrivers we know today aren’t the same ones that started out in 2005, though. If you listen to their first two albums, you’ll be hearing vocalist Chris Stapleton. After the release of their 2010 album, “Reckless,” Stapleton left the band to focus on his family. That was where Nichols came in. While there is a clear difference between Stapleton singing “Midnight Tears” and Nichols singing “River Runs Red,“ I think we can all agree the band took advantage of the change that came their way and kept producing great music.