CD Review: The Steeldrivers – Bad For You – by Preshias Harris for Country Music News International Magazine & Radio Show

Bad For You – The Steeldrivers (Rounder
Records)

Outlaw bluegrass with a gritty,
bluesy edge

Album review by Preshias Harris for Country Music News International Magazine & Radio Show

All music genres seem to have sub-genres
that are either extensions of the main genre or a fusion of two different but
similar genres (Think: Rockabilly, for example).  The Steeldrivers are a band that straddles
different genres, creating music that is unique and doesn’t fit easily into any
category.

They have sometimes been described as
“goth-grass,” a blending of bluegrass and goth-rock. Their music is certainly
anchored in the traditions of bluegrass with the familiar sound of banjo and
fiddle. At the same time, their music often taps into some of the darkest
depths of human emotion, giving a gothic edge to the songs.

Now comes their latest album, Bad For
You
, set for release on 07 February, 2020, their first album since 2015’s The
Muscle Shoals Recordings
that won a Grammy Award for Best Bluegrass Album.

Together since 2005, The Steeldrivers are
now on their third lead vocalist. Original vocalist Chris Stapleton left the
group in 2010 and achieved a meteoric rise to fame as a solo artist (Traveller,
“Tennessee Whiskey”) and was replaced by Gary Nichols who would also leave for
a solo career. New band member Kelvin Damrell is arguably their best vocalist
to date, bringing a grittier, more bluesy edge to the eleven new songs on their
new album.

The title track opens with wistful banjo
and fiddle before Damrell’s voice hits you high and hard, as if channeling
vintage 1970’s Brian Johnson (AC/DC) transported to rural Kentucky. The lyrics
have an older man warning a naïve younger girl that he’s bad for her… but maybe
hoping she won’t listen…

If you know what’s good for you

you’ll step aside and let me roll on
through

because I’m bad for you

There’s more darkness in “The Bartender,”
as the protagonist sees two sides to what he’s doing, serving people with a
drinking problem. Is he helping them deal with their troubles or slowly killing
them?

I wipe down the bar but I can’t wipe away
his past

I just pour another shot of whiskey in his
glass

some may call me a sinner but when it’s all
said and done

I don’t pull the trigger I just load the
gun

But it’s not all downers.  There’s the bright and sunny uptempo love
song, “I Choose You” and a fun country toe-tapper, “Glad I’m Gone,” to lighten
the mood.  In fact, “Glad I’m Gone” could
easily be a Country chart hit for someone like Morgan Wollen or Luke Bryan with
a slightly different arrangement! 
There’s even a feeling of optimism (sad optimism) in the difference
between “Lonely and Being Alone,” a slow waltz, “passing the time ‘til He calls
me home.” 

Like all the best music should be, Bad
For You
does not fit easily into categories.  It has the rootsy feel of Americana set in a
bluegrass frame with the gritty dust of Outlaw Country fueled by the bluesy
rocker vocals of Kelvin Damrell.  Call it
Goth-grass if you like. But listen to this new set from The Steeldrivers and
you’ll call it damn good music.

Bad For Youalbum credits:

Richard Bailey – banjo

Kelvin Damrel – guitar, lead vocals

Mike Fleming – bass, harmony vocals

Tammy Rogers – fiddle, viola, octave
violin, harmony vocals

Brent Truitt –
mandolin, octave mandolin, baritone guitar

John Paul White – guest harmony vocals on
“Innocent Man”

Produced by The SteelDrivers                                                  

“Innocent Man” Co-Produced by John Paul
White

Music and more information at https://thesteeldrivers.com/

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