The SteelDrivers - Reckless

After busting loose on the national scene with the fantastic blend of bluegrass and soulful blues, The SteelDrivers return with their sophomore album.  Does this record live up or even suprass what they did on their 2008 debut?

By expanding on The SteelDrivers and adding to their ‘play as just’ a band approach with added instrument experiments (resonator guitar here, viola there) that makes Reckless feel like an absolute monster of an album.  “The Reckless Side of Me” starts the record off (it’s the ‘title track’) and immediately shows off the old-school/new-school blend of this record with fantastic instrumentals backing lyrics that find Stapleton singing about two angels who constantly bicker about his every move.  It’s an interesting twist on the ‘angel on the left, devil on the right’ type of song and definitely fits well within the traditional bluegrass tunes.  “Where Rainbows Never Die” is an immediate highlight with fantastic lyrics about a man coming to terms with the end of his life.  It’s a beautiful tune and if it was given proper chance at radio it could really strike a chord with listeners.  The vocals from Stapleton, Rogers and Fleming blend beautifully on the tune while Rogers gets to showcase her skills on the viola while Henderson plays the Resonator guitar here.  There’s a slight airy Celtic feel to the whole tune that should help the tune do well across the pond as well.

There are stories on Reckless that chronicle the ‘seedier’ side of life and while some are chosen (as told in “Good Corn Liquor”) some aren’t (“The Price”).  “Guitars, Whiskey, Guns and Knives” lives in this side of live as well with the song showcasing ‘four good ways to wreck your life.’  “Can You Run” is a fantastic story song about a Civil War – era slave with a choice to ‘run’ for freedom and to take up sides against the south while “Peacemaker” is an emotionally packed tune that takes us ‘in the heart and mind’ of a pistol.  The melody of the latter tune is full of interesting instrumentals and a nuanced vocal from Stapleton.   

Fans of stone cold traditional ‘heartbreak’ songs will thoroughly enjoy “You Put The Hurt On Me.”  Listening to the tune is like listening to a classic country song from days of yore.  It’s laid-back, Tammy Rogers fiddle is heartbreakingly beautiful and the vocal from Stapleton is full of the requisite sadness that accompanies all great tear-in-your-whiskey ballads.  “Angels of the Night” allows the band to exercise their considerable instrumental talent while “Ghosts of Mississippi” is the kind of soul-stirring ballad that is such a part of Bluegrass and soul music’s history.  It’s a fantastic way to end Reckless on a highlight. 

Reckless is both a fantastic piece of bluegrass and roots music.  It’s the kind of inspired album that can come out when an artist (and/or band) knows what and how they want to record their music. And if Chris Stapleton never records another record again, this is a fantastic way for him to go out*.  Reckless is undoubtedly one of my favorite recordings to get released in 2010.  In fact, as of right now it’s a contender for the best recording of the year.

*After this record was recorded the band’s lead vocalist changed and while Chris Stapleton was very much a major part of the band as the passionate, deeply talented singer and co-writer of each tune on Reckless and The SteelDrivers albums.  While he’ll no doubt be missed by fans, the very capable and equally soulful vocalist/writer Gary Nichols has joined the band as the new singer (he’ll be singing all of the ‘hits’ from these records for the band’s ‘promo tour’ in addition to sprinkling in his own tunes like “Unbroken Ground” to the mix while performing out on tour).  Chris Stapleton chose to leave the band to focus on his young family and his songwriting career (he’s written songs for people like Kenny Chesney, Lee Ann Womack, Little Big Town, Gary Allan and Josh Turner).

You can support the SteelDrivers by purchasing this album at Amazon | iTunes.