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Randy Steele and His Bluegrass Roots

Review of 'Songs From the Suck'

Bluegrass music or not, to my musically untrained ears I could hear no difference between the music done by Randy Steele for this solo album and any other bluegrass music I listened to growing up as someone in a country music loving household. The combinations of downhome instruments and country twang made me think bluegrass and itch to kick up my heels.

So, why do I bring up an argument of what’s bluegrass and what isn’t in relation to the new solo album from Steele, Songs from the Suck? It’s because that very subject is covered in the press release for this album.

It seems that as a long-time member of the Tennessee based Slim Pickins Bluegrass band, an award-winning band that Steele’s been frontman and banjo player for since 2008, he knows what the true bluegrass sound is, and his solo effort is a more eclectic taste that the band's fans might not have been happy with. I’m not a music snob—I like good music no matter what kind of genre-bending they do—so I really dug this album.

When Steele came up with some songs that he wanted to throw drums and a slide-guitar into, which he knew it was “a no-no” in the terms of traditional bluegrass, he opted to use these tunes on a solo album instead of succumbing his band to the naysaying that would surely happen. And thus, Songs from the Suck was born.

According to the internet's own encyclopedia, Wikipedia, Bluegrass music is:

Influenced by the music of Appalachia, has mixed roots in Irish, Scottish, and English traditional music, and was also later influenced by the music of African-Americans through incorporation of jazz elements.

I didn't read far enough to see the expected instrumentation, but I guess the people from Tennessee would know more than me.

This particular album has kind of a bluesy feel to it and was recorded with Steele’s usual band. The name, according to the bio, comes from “a reference to Suck Creek that comes into the Tennessee River close to my house.”

Check the album out here.

Each song has a great beat. The first track, "Northbound 29", made me think of the movie O’ Brother, Where Art Thou? Each instrument stands out and plays with your ears. The vocals are absolutely amazing and make you want to just keep listening forever.

The album also has instrumental tracks, like "Shove the Pig’s Foot a Little Closer to the Fire.” An interestingly named track, but a delightful song that is both invigorating and relaxing. It’s a song you could enjoy around a spring or autumn bonfire.

Listening to any of the songs on this album, you’ll be completely aware of how talented all of the musicians working on this project are. I feel like no one instruments stands out more than another on this album, giving them each equal footing, leading to an amazing sound.

These tunes will have you wanting to get up and dance, prancing around the hardwood floors in cowboy boots. Even songs with a sad element, like "Eliza Mae," have such an upbeat sound. "Hard Givin’’ does slow the beat down some, but the music is still beautifully rendered and you feel the pain and the power of the song. You feel the inspiration of the hard work we put into life within the lyrics.

If you’re a bluegrass fan, enjoy some blues and jazz now and then, and you like country music, there is something for you on this album. I really liked it and think it’s one of the best bluegrass albums I’ve listened to in decades.

This collection of fresh pickin' songs is brought to you by the good people of Whiplash Pr & Marketing

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