Nashville, Tennessee is a nexus – a point where tradition and innovation intersect, where commerce collides with art. It may be the only town around where salaried songwriters and full-time session musicians are as common as accountants and schoolteachers. Music is the product, and the factories line the street, from the swank Music Row mini-high-rises to the low-slung Sylvain Park bungalows. And only Nashville could give birth to a band like the SteelDrivers: a group of seasoned veterans – each distinguished in his or her own right, each valued in the town’s commercial community – who are seizing an opportunity to follow their hearts to their souls’ reward. In doing so, they are braiding their bluegrass roots with new threads of their own design, bringing together country, soul, and other contemporary influences to create an unapologetic hybrid that is old as the hills but fresh as the morning dew. This is new music with the old feeling. SteelDrivers fan Vince Gill describes the band’s fusion as simply “an incredible combination.”
The SteelDrivers’ brand of bluegrass – intense, dark, poetic, and inescapably human – is a refreshing reminder of the timeless power of stringband music, and is captured perfectly on The SteelDrivers. Produced by Nashville ace Luke Wooten, The SteelDrivers was recorded mostly live on the studio floor, vocals and all. Its songs grapple with classic themes of regret, love, and redemption, from the escalating prison lament of “Midnight Train to Memphis” to the chilling murderer’s plea encapsulated in “If It Hadn’t Been for Love.” “East Kentucky Home” is a timeless traditional bluegrass lament, with its strains of homesickness, loss, and abandonment, but ingeniously reinvented with off-kilter rhythmic accents and a decidedly contemporary chord progression.
The willingness to set aside the unspoken rules that ruthlessly govern bluegrass set the SteelDrivers apart from the innumerable faceless acts vying for the bluegrass spotlight.
The SteelDrivers are:
Richard Bailey – Banjo
Grammy nominated banjo player, Richard Bailey has recorded with such diverse artists as Al Green and George Jones. Featured in the book Masters of the 5-String Banjo, Bailey has performed with Bill Monroe, Roland White, Vassar Clements, Loretta Lynn, Chet Akins, Larry Cordle, Laurie Lewis, Dale Ann Bradley, and countless others. He has also recorded with Kenny Rogers, Michael Martin Murphy, Johnny Cash, Tammy Wynette, and Ronnie Milsap and has played at Carnegie Hall and on Austin City Limits.
Mike Fleming – Bass/Vocals
A versatile veteran, Mike Fleming lays down the firm foundation and sings the baritone harmony that rounds out the SteelDrivers’ sound. A self-confessed “recovering banjo player,” Mike has recorded with Holly Dunn, Joy Lynn White, and with groundbreaking singer/songwriter David Olney. In addition to traveling the world during stints with Dunn and Kevin Welch, Mike has appeared on Austin City Limits, Nashville Now, Crook and Chase, and too many Grand Ole Opry shows and festivals to count.
Mike Henderson – Mandolin/Vocals
Mike Henderson is a veteran songwriter and award-winning musician, with several solo albums on both RCA and Dead Reckoning to his credit. He has recorded with such artists as Waylon Jennings, Emmylou Harris, Mark Knopfler, Albert King, Hank Williams, Jr., Johnny Lang, Peter Rowan, Guy Clark, John Hiatt, Sting, Delbert McClinton, Bob Seger, Bo Diddley, Faith Hill, Lucinda Williams, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and many others. His songs have been recorded by the Dixie Chicks, Kenny Rogers, Daryl Worley, Patty Loveless, Trisha Yearwood, Travis Tritt, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Solomon Burke, Marty Stuart, Gary Allan, and Randy Travis.
Gary Nichols- Guitar/Vocals
Muscle Shoals has always been a hotbed of talent. Gary Nichols is the next in line of the great Muscle Shoals songwriting performers. Even though he is only 30 years old Gary has been playing professionally for nearly 20 years. The hotshot instrumentalist, singing wonder and songwriting champ fits the classic definition of a “guitar slinger,” but he’s no novice. This is a role he was born to play. Gary has been playing guitar and singing since the age of 6. In 2003 he crossed paths with the Nashville music machine, signed with Mercury Reocrds and watched the label be reconstructed, reorganized and recommercialized. He returned to the fertile southern sanctuary of northern Alabama Muscle Shoals, signed a songwriting deal with Fame Music and resumed his busy session schedule. When the SteelDrivers came calling Gary threw his hat in the ring (and hasn’t looked back).
Tammy Rogers – Fiddle/Vocals
Growing up in a family bluegrass band that also included banjo great Scott Vestal, Tammy brings a lifetime of instrumental and vocal experience to the SteelDrivers. She was also in the legendary pre-Union Station bluegrass band Dusty Miller with Barry Bales, Tim Stafford, Adam Steffey, and Brian Fesler. No stranger to the studio, she has recorded with Neil Diamond, Wynonna, Rodney Crowell, Radney Foster, Bill Anderson, Iris Dement, Randy Scruggs, Patty Loveless, Buddy and Julie Miller, Jim Lauderdale, and many more. She has toured the world with Trisha Yearwood, Reba McEntire, Patty Loveless, Maria McKee, and the Dead Reckoners. Her songs have been recorded by Terri Clarke and Frances Black.