Alternative country music’s biggest fans and critics alike can’t seem to stop buzzing about Steel Blossoms, and for good reason. Their brand new sophomore album, titled simplySteel Blossoms, won’t see release until late April 2019, but it’s already been making some big waves in and out of the Nashville scene. Packing ten fiery punches of an erudite sonic quality, this is one LP that even casual Americana enthusiasts aren’t going to want to miss out on this spring, if for no other reason than to hear the harmonies that some – including myself – have dubbed among the most profound of this generation.
While Steel Blossoms have yet to disappoint anyone with their studio work, they sound remarkably confident and poised in songs like the elegy “Revenge,” which tackles the issue of domestic abuse, “Heroine,” a dark depiction of drug addiction at its most heartbreaking, and “Innocent,” a track that encapsulates the very essence of youth in three and a half minutes of sheer string mysticism. Singers Sara Zebley and Hayley Prosser have struck the perfect balance in their eclectic sound profile here, and though Country Enough had us praising their songwriting skills back in 2016, what they’ve done in Steel Blossoms is akin to a creative quantum leap.
The guitars are as big of a star as the vocals are in “Killed a Man,” “County Line,” “You’re the Reason I Drink” and “Innocent,” and actually add to the narrative of each song quite substantially. An emotive fiddle contributes a bluegrass-inspired flavor to “Trailer Neighbor,” “You Ain’t Sleeping Over,” and of course, “Kentucky’s Never Been This Far,” but it’s the unassuming percussive march of “Pick Me Up” that provides the most adrenaline in Steel Blossoms. They’re known for their gilded pipes, but in reality, what this duo conjures up on the instrumental side of their latest release is possibly even more alluring a facet than the swanky serenades that join it are.
In many ways, Steel Blossoms are giving us a glimpse into the ultimate hybrid of Nashville’s past and present in this record, as the band toys with formulaic song structures in “County Line,” “Innocent,” “Killed a Man” and “You’re the Reason I Drink,” but also tosses in a hint of alternative folk-style experimentalism with “Revenge” and “Heroine.” It all adds up to an anthology piece that represents the history of the band’s genre better than most anything available today, save for certain retrospective compilations of old school talent and industry icons.
You’re not likely to find a more gripping tracklist than the one that Steel Blossoms brings to the table this April, and if you needed more evidence to support the idea that Sara Zebley and Hayley Prosser’s dynamic skillset is situated in the top tier of their scene, these ten tracks should more than suffice. Conceptual, captivating and polished enough for the pop crowd while maintaining their trademark independent style, Steel Blossoms’ latest release ranks as the most refined LP from these two singers of Pittsburgh origin so far, but I highly doubt that this will be the last time that their sublimely inventive music is making headlines around the country.
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