Specializing in a unique mix of what might be called bluegrass soul, the SteelDrivers have featured a group of veteran Nashville session players including Richard Bailey on banjo, Mike Fleming on bass, Mike Henderson on mandolin, Tammy Rogers on fiddle, and Chris Stapleton on guitar and lead vocals.
Stapleton's bluesy, hoarse, and Tom Waits-like singing really set the SteelDrivers apart in the often generic contemporary bluegrass genre, where a high and lonesome tenor lead vocal is typically heard. Stapleton's passionate croaking gave the SteelDrivers an authentic, aged, and rootsy feel. The band quickly became a favorite on the bluegrass festival circuit and released a debut album, simply called The SteelDrivers and consisting of all original compositions, on Rounder Records early in 2008. A second Rounder release, Reckless, appeared in 2010. Before recording their next album, the SteelDrivers went through some major lineup shifts, with Stapleton and Henderson both leaving. They were replaced by Gary Nichols and Brent Truitt, respectively, and their next album, 2013's Hammer Down, couldn't help but sound different. Nichols proved to be a fine replacement, though, and the band kept rolling along. The SteelDrivers dug deeper into their soulful side on 2015's The Muscle Shoals Recordings, recorded in the Alabama town where some of the biggest and best R&B hits of the '60s and '70s were cut. The album also featured singer and songwriter Jason Isbell on two songs. ~ Steve Leggett, Rovi