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The SteelDrivers’ “The Muscle Shoals Recordings” Debuts at #1

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 The Music Shoals RecordingsNashville, TN -- Three-time Grammy nominees The SteelDrivers have cause to celebrate: their new album, The Muscle Shoals Recordings, which was released to great acclaim on June 16 via Rounder Records, has debuted at #1 on Billboard’s Bluegrass Chart. The album, which landed at #5 on the Top New Artist Albums Chart, and #125 on the Top Current Albums Chart, achieved the highest first-week sales in the band’s history.

The band kicked off release week with a special show at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena, which was broadcast live on Sirius XM’s Bluegrass Junction. They followed up with a live set and signing at Nashville record mecca Grimey’s, and closed out the day with a performance at the Grand Ole Opry.

From there, they headed to Muscle Shoals, where they played to a packed house at Florence’s 116 E. Mobile Street. The band is in the midst of a tour of the United States, and will be on the road through the end of the year.

Here’s what some critics are saying about The Muscle Shoals Recordings:

  • “While you might not initially think of bluegrass as being soulful, it’s probably because you haven’t heard the SteelDrivers.” Jim Casey, Country Weekly
  • “From the group that put the blues back into bluegrass, The Muscle Shoals Recordings is just another dimension in where the SteelDrivers are and who they are.” Bob Cherry, Cybergrass
  • “The group has rarely sounded more focused or passionate.” Hal Horowitz, American Songwriter
  • “The aptly-named The Muscle Shoals Recordings (Rounder), reflects the same soul and blues ache so evident in the town made famous by Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin and the Staples family, among many others.” Suzanne Cadgene, Elmore
  • “The SteelDrivers have established soulgrass as their own little niche…“The Muscle Shoals Recordings continues the band's string of superior bluegrass recordings.” Donald Teplyske, Country Standard Time

The album is largely inspired by Muscle Shoals, an area of confluence and consequence, of intermingling, experimentation, and exultation, and a legendary music mecca. It’s also the hometown of the SteelDrivers’ lead vocalist and guitarist Gary Nichols, whose bandmates – fiddler and vocalist Tammy Rogers, banjoist Richard Bailey, mandolinist Brent Truitt, and bassist and singer Mike Fleming – made the two-and-a-half hour trek from Nashville to Sheffield, Alabama, to the NuttHouse Recording Studio to record eleven new original tunes, mostly written by Rogers and Nichols.

There, they conjured a singularly compelling sound, drenched in soul, blues, bluegrass, R&B, country, and rock’n’roll. Jason Isbell – Nichols’ friend and musical compatriot since childhood, and himself an extraordinary singer, songwriter, and guitarist – co-produced two of the album’s 11 tracks and contributed slide guitar to two (the aforementioned “Brother John, ” and “Ashes of Yesterday”).

Gary Nichols has emerged as a vocalist of distinction, as a monster acoustic guitarist, and as a songwriting force who wrote or co-wrote five of Shoals Recordings’ 11 songs, including the plaintive “Here She Goes,” and the dark ballad “Brother John.” Tammy Rogers stepped up her songwriting as well, and she has credits on all but one of the album’s remaining songs, including the stirring waltz “Ashes of Yesterday,” and the somber, reflective album closer, “River Runs Red,” a meditation on the Civil War. Richard Bailey composed the lone instrumental, the joyous, rousing “California Chainsaw.” The one outlier on The Muscle Shoals Recordings is “Drinkin’ Alone,” a romp penned by Jay Knowles and former SteelDriver Chris Stapleton.

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