The Steel Wheels
Leave Some Things Behind
Big Ring Records, BRR-004 (2015)

CD Review by Hermon Joyner
April 14, 2015

Four-part harmony is one of my favorite aspects of vocal singing, whether it’s a gospel quartet or a bluegrass effort such as the Del McCoury Band is fond of performing. In fact, the very first time I heard the McCoury band perform live, the first number they did was an a Capella number that was frankly electrifying. So it was gratifying to recently catch a new band, at least to me, at Wintergrass in Bellevue, Washington State, this past February. The Steel Wheels was the band and it was obvious that four-part vocal harmony was something they appreciate as well.

The Steel Wheels are a four-piece string band playing bluegrass-influenced Americana music from Virginia. Lead vocals, banjo, and guitar are handled by Trent Wagler, whose raw and powerful voice is a singular instrument in this setting. Sometimes it seems as if his voice would fit nicely in a rock music setting, but he feels right at home here. Wagler has a voice that sounds unique, feels authentic, and is one with lasting satisfaction. Jay Lapp plays mandolin, resonator guitar, electric guitar, and adds tenor vocal harmonies to the mix. His facile and sensitive playing really hits the spot. Eric Brubaker is on fiddle and bass vocals, while Brian Dickel handles the bass and vocals. Their latest recording is Leave Some Things Behind, which is made up of all original tunes written mostly by Trent Wagler with Jay Lapp and Eric Brubaker each contributing a tune to the album.

While all The Steel Wheels members are more than competent with their instruments, the stand-outs for me are Jay Lapp and Eric Brubaker. If I had my preferences, I’d maybe feature more mandolin solos for Lapp, but what there is here, is very fine. His mandolin playing really is unique and very nicely done in a restrained sort of way where the value and character of each note is allowed to shine. And Brubaker is just a great fiddler; every solo is killer.

Leave Some Things Behind is a great album from some rising stars of Americana music. The songs are solidly written and performed and the entire project feels personal and genuine. Real passion in musical performance is nearly impossible to fake, and the care and love that went into this album is apparent in every song. I was glad to discover The Steel Wheels at that recent bluegrass festival and Leave Some Things Behind is ample proof that they are a band to watch and listen to. Highly recommended.


Song List: We’ve Got A Fire; So Lonely; Heaven Don’t Come By Here; End Of The World Again; Milo; Help Me; Old Guitar; Promised Land; Mountains Quake; Find Your Mountain; Winter Is Coming; Worn Wool, Soft Leather; Rescue Me, Virginia; Every Song Is A Love Song.