The SteelDrivers, The SteelDrivers (Rounder)

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The SteelDrivers: Midnight Train to Memphis
The SteelDrivers, The SteelDrivers (Rounder)

Some people have (understandably) said to me they didn't quite get this immediately -- and to be honest nor did I.

Bluegrass isn't my thing: I find the vocals often nasal and whining, the scraping fiddle gets on my wick after a while, and the songs are either flat-tack upbeat or downright morose.

Which makes it a real surprise to me that I should have even played this album, let alone be posting it. But this one is exceptional. Or will eat your heart out. Either way . . .

The bland cover gives nothing away and the murky photo on the back had some longhair guy and a woman next to a couple of non-descript older fellows. Yes this is bluegrass, but a long way from the cliches.

Vocalist Chris Stapleton (the longhair?) has a dark and soulful voice which he pours into these gripping originals and although the prerequisite fiddle and banjo are there they sound more like bluegrass as made by Keith Richards to these ears.

There is a rocking, blue-collar edge to the uptempo tracks and a bluesy melancholy to the slow ballads.

Loving it!

This is also pretty spare - they are five-piece -- and because of that it feels raw and up-close.

But it is Stapleton's rusty sounding soul-country style which makes this one so special. Rhythm'n'bluegrass I think you might call it. Yep, playin' loud - - and lovin' it.

Don't discount this one. It rocks. Or will eat your heart out. Either way . . .

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