Concert Review: The SteelDrivers at The Hamilton
The ‘Drivers’ Sunday night show at The Hamilton, a new roots music venue in DC, was two fantastic hours of bluegrass punctuated with lots of humor (the evening’s ground rules, facetiously laid out by frontman Gary Nichols and fiddler Tammy Rogers: no drinking during gospel songs and…no gospel songs. Both rules were broken within minutes.).
Several surprises peppered the set list, which included a wide selection of cuts from the group’s self-titled record and 2010’s Reckless. Rogers’ solo performance of “Gloryland” was a highlight, as was the fiddle and banjo tune “McEntire’s Rain” that she played with Richard Bailey. The band shared some material from their upcoming album, which will be released either late this year or in early 2013 – whenever it comes out, it’s not soon enough. “I’ll Be There,” a haunting, gorgeous ballad that Gary Nichols wrote with John Paul White of The Civil Wars sounds unlike anything else The SteelDrivers have recorded to date, while “When You Don’t Come Home,” a wronged-woman tale which finds Rogers singing “You can tell the truth to me or this .45,” received raucous approval from the packed house.
Though founding members Chris Stapleton and Mike Henderson have left the band, the music hasn’t suffered a bit. With Nichols’ raw vocals anchoring sublime harmony singing and stellar musicianship, The SteelDrivers are making some of their best music to date, and Sunday’s show proved that they’re one of the most entertaining live acts in bluegrass as well.
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