5 stars (out of 5)
By Aaron Keith Harris
It’s hard to imagine a group’s sophomore album improving over something as good as The SteelDrivers’ self-titled 2008 debut, but this band has done it.
My only quibble with that fine effort was that most of the songs—as great as they were—sounded pretty similar, not taking full advantage of the range of expression offered them by their band’s greatest asset.
That asset is the voice of Chris Stapleton, who can out-sing any rock or country frontman within hundreds of miles of Nashville. Not only is his bluesy voice capable of what I termed a “full-throated holler” but it is unusually supple and expressive even when not at top volume, as evidenced on “Where Rainbows Never Die,” “Can You Run,” “You Put the Hurt on Me,” “Higher Than the Wall,” and “The Price,” which swings back and forth from quiet to raucous.
The rest of the tracks hew close to the line traced by The SteelDrivers, bluesy numbers propelled by Richard Bailey’s banjo, Mike Fleming’s bass, Mike Henderson’s mandolin and Tammy Rogers’ fiddle.
Indeed, the only thing wrong with this album is that it is apparently Stapleton’s last with the group, a major blow in light of the fact that he helps write most of the songs that he so soulfully sings.