Musings on folk, Americana, country, bluegrass and newgrass

Photo of the members of The Steel Wheels posing in a record store

The Steel Wheels head to Rooster Walk 11, The Rooster’s Wife for the holiday weekend

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The Steel Wheels are having a double rooster of a holiday weekend.

First up, they are set to perform on Saturday at the 11th annual Rooster Walk Music and Arts Festival in Axton, Virginia. And on Sunday the string band from Virginia is heading to The Rooster’s Wife to perform in Aberdeen, North Carolina.

It’s the first time the band will perform at either venue, according to Trent Wagler, the band’s founder and frontman, who plays guitar and banjo.

“Rooster Walk is a sister festival,” Wagler explained. “One of beautiful things is to see everyone who works both festivals realize the importance of each of the festivals doing well. In an age where we’re hearing from our top leadership the goal is to always win, seeing models of doing business, co-operation being the universal win. It’s a cool community of people learning how to do an event.”

Fans can expect to hear a few new tunes from The Steel Wheels seventh full-length album, “Over The Trees,” which they plan to release on July 12 at their own music festival, the seventh annual Red Wing Roots Music Festival in Mt. Solon, Virginia.

“It’s just a cool new way The Steel Wheels are communicating,” Wagler said in a telephone interview from his home in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains in western Virginia. “The first couple of songs, if you really dissect and listen, there’s a lot more percussion, that’s the biggest change, and more guitars. But matter what we do, we still sound like us. We are a string band from Virginia, but we are evolving with this album, and we are embracing the future.”

The new album was recorded in Maine with producer Sam Kassirer and is a bit of a departure for the acoustic music collective thanks mainly to the addition of new band member Kevin Garcia, who plays multiple percussion instruments, keyboard, and mallet-based instruments. Garcia formally joined the band after the 2017 release of “Wild as We Came Here,” still one of my favorite albums, which was also produced by Kassirer.  You can read my review here. A full review of the new album is forthcoming.

Garcia joins original band members Wagler and Eric Brubaker (fiddle), Brian Dickel (bass), and Jay Lapp (guitars/mandolin).

In addition to familiar-to-fans harmonies, The Steel Wheels ventured a little farther out of their known comfort zone for “Over The Trees.” “This is a bit of an experimental record at times, with new sounds and influences,” Wagler said. “We know where we come from. We are a string band from Virginia, but we are evolving with this album, and we are embracing the future.”

I can honestly say, however, after just one listen, “Over The Trees,” may bump “Wild” out of its top slot for me. You’re going to want to take a listen. Better yet head to Rooster Walk or The Rooster’s Wife and take a listen for yourself.


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