Following on from Kate’s recent interview, The Steel Woods announced a UK tour in September to promote their ‘Old News’ album.  The album was released on January 18th, continuing on from their debut, ‘Straw in the Wind, released in 2017.

The Nashville southern rockers get straight down to business with the first track on the album ‘All These Years’ which is a rollocking blues/rock number and a fitting start to their sophomore album. 

‘Without You’ takes the album off into a mellower direction & highlights the drumming skills of Jay Tooke. Lead singer Wes Bayliss is in fine voice here. It’s a moving on song, the song of a friend helping another get over an ex.  

Next stop is a cover of Black Sabbath’s ‘Changes’, it’s given a southern makeover. Once again Wes shines with his vocals, with so much soul and blues in his voice. The guys have done a wonderful job on this cover version, it’s a very fitting tribute to Ozzy & Black Sabbath.

THE STEEL WOODS

Continuing with the softer feel, ‘Wherever You Are’, one of the highlight tracks from the album, in my opinion, is a beautifully written slower paced track containing what sounds like both fiddles and Cellos. The song was originally called ‘Whoever you are’ and Wes thought that it would be better or at least a little more universal, if it was called ‘Wherever you are’ and somebody can sing it that way. It is about the soulmate that everyone has and hasn’t met yet or doesn’t know if that person is out there for them.

Getting back to something that’s a bit more like normal fare ‘Blind Lover’ , which is a plea for unity, is a raucous rocker, laden with heavy guitar riffs that will please the air guitar lovers, no doubt this is going to be a huge favourite when performed live and will have the crowds jumping up and down like crazy.

‘Compared to A Soul’ continues in much the same vein, a slightly slower, Blues/ Rock/ Southern Rock track about a card game that turns friends into enemies due to some slight of hand. 

The title track, ‘Old News’ is a poke at the state of the world today and how the lack of thinking is leading us to destroy the planet and lack respect for one and other, and pleading humanity to stop, look, listen and think about the direction we are heading in with a fantastic slide solo from Rowdy.

‘Anna Lee’ is a prequel to ‘Della Jane’s Heart’ from the first album. A very clever idea, it has all the same characters and tells the same story but it is a different song on a different record. Inviting Anna to “leave our little town” because “I told another that I love her. I was wrong”. Its an upbeat number, with more of a country feel to it than earlier tracks in the album, with Mandolins and Pedal Steel Guitar. It flows beautifully into the next track. 

‘Red River (The fall of Jimmy Sutherland)’ is a real rarity in this day and age, especially in the Southern Rock genre, it’s an instrumental. Now it always seemed to me that a lot of instrumentals sound like they are just there to pad out an album, stuck on the end of an album. However, this is track nine and works perfectly with the previous and next song. 

‘The Catfish Song’ originally by Townes Van Zandt, the first of five tributes (Wes was clear that they are tributes , not covers) contains a seventies’ sounding organ and harmonica leading into a real bluesy guitar solo, and again Rowdy working his magic during this track.

‘The Rock That Says My Name’ is a another of my favourite jams on this record. It has a biblical reference at the end, a reading of Matthew 6:21, it’s part of the sermon on the mount and relates to a sermon Jesus gave about why one should store one’s treasures in Heaven rather than on earth. Essentially, it’s a song about passing away, but exiting to a better place.

Warren Mill’s ‘One of These Days’ contains some exquisite pedal steel that compliments Wes’s voice perfectly. Its quite an unusual choice for a cover, but the guys pull it off effortlessly. 

Merle Haggard’s ‘Are the Good Times Really Over’ gets a makeover. This song sounds as relevant now as ever before, which I guess is one of the reasons the guys cut it. It is an amazing song and The Steel Woods do it total justice.

‘Whipping Post’ has been covered many times but this is one of the finest versions of it I’ve heard. They own this song and I do believe Duane & Gregg are smiling down, approving of this cover. They breathe new life into it.

 ‘Old News’ is rounded off with Tom Petty’s ‘Southern Accents’ which is an epic finish to a fantastic record. Wes’s voice is perfect for this song, because of the southern twang he has to his voice. 

The Steel Woods are one of Nashville’s best kept secrets and you need to discover them before they arrive in the UK in September. Whether this is better than ‘Straw in the Wind’ in my opinion, I don’t know, that was one helluva record, what I do know is that both demand attention & The Steel Woods need to be seen live.

Roger Sharman

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