The Steel Wheels- Live in Red Deer February 9, 2012

With the demise of Waskasoo Bluegrass, many of us in the Central Alberta region have been missing stringband music this season. We’re in for a treat February 9 as the energetic The Steel Wheels, a quartet with their roots in the fertile bluegrass and old-time music scene of Virginia, visit The Hideout February 9; despite the venue’s shaky sound, this has the potential to be the roots show of the winter. Think Mumford & Sons meets Old Crow Medicine Show, but even more appealing in my opinion.

In writing my Roots Music column this morning, I’ve been listening to Fred Eaglesmith’s new album 6 Volts as well as Sarah MacDougall’s excellent The Greatest Ones Alive (Sarah is at The Hideout February 7). While searching for the upcoming local shows, I saw mention of The Steel Wheels. Having heard the band name mentioned a few times recently on CKUA, but having not knowingly heard their music, I started listening at their website and quickly found much to appreciate. A quick visit to iTunes led me to their live album of last year Live at Goose Creek, and that is what I’m currently listening to- quite loudly with the headphones on.

Another example of ‘too much music to hear everything,’ I am so glad that I have finally found the music of The Steel Wheels. Fiddle-rich and mandolin-driven, their music includes all the elements I most appreciate in acoustiblue music- energy, strong and distinctive lead vocals that are supported and complemented by acute harmony, instrumental proficiency, originality tied to tradition, new songs that sound old and traditional songs that sound as they always have.

If we’re willing to follow them blindly, there are so many paths that can lead us to unheard music. Great stuff that we just haven’t happened to find. Yet. Eventually, the good stuff finds us- as The Steel Wheels did me this morning. Give them a listen- if you dig Chatham County Line, there is no reason you won’t enjoy The Steel Wheels.

It is rare that we get a US-based, modern stringband playing in Red Deer. Very rare. Waskasoo Bluegrass- of which I was a fair significant part- focused on traditional and contemporary bluegrass bands and rarely ventured toward more progressive and (dare we say) youthful sounds- I suppose the closest we got to ‘hip’ we got was featuring The Infamous Stringdusters several years ago. Thankfully, The Hideout latched onto The Steel Wheels who are going to be in the area for a pair of folk club shows in Calgary and Edmonton.

By the way, in a feat of booking good chance- often a rare thing in our province where left and right hands often book complementary bands on the same night in the same city- while The Steel Wheels are in Edmonton on February 10, Spring Creek, a Colorado bluegrass and acoustiblue group, are in Calgary. When The Steel Wheels arrive in Calgary the next night, Spring Creek are on stage in Edmonton for a show. So, no cross-town conflicts for a pair of bands that should attract similar audiences.

As always, thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. I appreciate your interest and support. Donald

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