The Steeldrivers may play traditional bluegrass, but they do it with a style that's informed by outlaw country and rock & roll attitude. Mike Henderson, who plays mandolin, resophonic guitar, and harmonica and also co-writes the majority of the band's original tunes, was one of the founders of the Dead Reckoning label, an alt-country label that released some of the best non-Nashville country albums of the ‘90s. That maverick approach is evident in the sounds the Steeldrivers generate here.
For their sophomore album, Reckless, the SteelDrivers face a rather unusual dilemma. Frontman Chris Stapleton wrote and recorded the album with the band, which still includes its lineup of some of Nashville’s finest pickers, but has since announced that he’s leaving to focus more intensely on songwriting. Stapleton’s departure makes Reckless a swan song for the first incarnation of the SteelDrivers.
First, the bad news (and somewhat old news by now): Chris Stapleton has left the SteelDrivers. The band has a new singer who will probably prove more than capable, as these music business veterans aren’t going to let a slacker front their band. But now that the group’s new CD, Reckless, is available, with Stapleton doing the singing, it may be difficult to listen to these songs sung in a live setting by anyone other than him.
SARA BAREILLES “Kaleidoscope Heart” (Epic) Heartache is no match for show-tune pizazz on “Kaleidoscope Heart,” the second album by the songwriter Sara Bareilles. Pumping piano chords and cheerful insubordination (along with promotion via television commercial) gave Ms. Bareilles a multimillion-selling hit single, “Love Song,” from her 2007 debut album, “Little Voice,” and she’s still best when her songs are more pushy than plaintive.