The SteelDrivers are one of the more exciting bluegrass bands to ride the circuit in this 21st Century. Many folks know them as the band that introduced country superstar Chris Stapleton to the world, with the singer and guitarist appearing on the band’s first two albums.
Stapleton left the band almost a decade ago, however, and the SteelDrivers kept rolling on. Fortunately, the band has only gotten better in the years since, due to their expert musicianship, songwriting skills and unique ability to keep their bluesy roots music alive and kicking.
The SteelDrivers have a proven record of bringing in new lead singers who have carried on their rocking and mesmerizing sound. After Stapleton moved on to eventual fame and fortune, northern Alabama singer and songwriter Gary Nichols took the lead vocal chair. After Nichols’ run, the band found eastern Kentucky singer Kelvin Damrell a couple of years ago, who brings even more fire to the stage.
The SteelDrivers will perform at the Paramount Arts center in Ashland this Saturday, Feb. 15. The concert begins at 7:30 p.m. and tickets range from $22 to $45. Opening up the show will be Buffalo Wabs and the Price Hill Shuffle.
The lineup of The SteelDrivers includes original members Tammy Rogers on fiddle and vocals, Richard Bailey on banjo and Mike Fleming on bass and vocals along with long-time mandolinist Brent Truitt and singer and guitarist Kelvin Damrell.
The SteelDrivers are a popular band here in the Tri-State, performing regularly at the Paramount and at the annual Rudyfest festival.
What is exciting about this upcoming tour is that The SteelDrivers just released their brand-new album called “Bad For You.” Fervent fans of the band, called Steel Heads, are prone to know the lyrics to nearly every SteelDrivers song ever recorded, and this new album will be no exception. With their powerful and bluesy groove intact, “Bad For You” is poised to further the group’s popularity even more.
“I feel like it is a classic SteelDrivers record, but not a copy of anything we have done before,” said Tammy Rogers. “I don’t feel like we have fallen into a formula, per se, as I just feel like we are doing our thing. I co-wrote all of the songs on this new album, except for the banjo tune, of course, written by Richard. One of the songs, called ‘Glad I’m Gone,’ was written 10 or 11 years ago with Chris Stapleton and Dean Dillon. But the rest of the songs were written within the last three or four years.”
It is uncanny the way the SteelDrivers continue to find lead singers that are distinctive yet still throw out that classic growl. Kelvin Damrell is now out front and center with the SteelDrivers and loving every minute of it. Damrell grew up in Berea, Kentucky, near the famous Renfro Valley Entertainment Center, which is a hot bed for local and regional live music in the Bluegrass State.
“Kelvin is doing a great job and the fans all love him,” said Rogers. “And wow, you would have thought that it would not have worked out like that, after losing Chris and Gary. But so far, everybody that has heard him sing has just flipped out over it. Kelvin is not trying to sound like Chris and Gary. He just has that type of voice and he is a great singer in his own right.”
Not only will The SteelDrivers perform in Ashland this Saturday, the band will make the drive to Charleston on Sunday to play on a live taping of the Mountain Stage radio show. Perhaps West Virginia’s most well-known cultural export, Mountain Stage is heard around the world weekly. Joining The SteelDrivers on this sold-out Mountain Stage program will be Russell Moore and IIIrd Tyme Out, Dom Flemons, Christopher Paul Stelling, The Small Glories and host Kathy Mattea.
“I love playing on Mountain Stage,” said Rogers. “It has been one of my favorite shows all throughout the various stages of my career. It is so good. They made me an honorary band member on Mountain Stage a number of years ago because I have played on the show more times than anybody else besides Tim O’Brien. I have played there with so many different artists over the years, including all of the artists on the Dead Reckoning label back in the day, I played the show with Victoria Williams a couple of times, with Allison Moorer and Pam Tillis and so many others.”
More information on the SteelDrivers show can be found at paramountartscenter.com.