Expatriate Texas fiddler Tammy Rogers describes the formation of the Steeldrivers as a "dream come true."
"I always wanted to be in a killer bluegrass band," says Rogers from her home in Nashville, where the band recently recorded their sophomore release Reckless. "So I was thrilled when Mike Henderson and Chris Stapleton put this band together. It's just something I wanted to do all my musical life."
With superstar pickers like Mark Knopfler sideman Mike Henderson (mandolin, National resonator) Mike Fleming (bass), Richard Bailey (banjo), Stapleton (vocals) and Irving native Rogers, Steeldrivers would qualify as a Nashville supergroup if they were playing nursery rhymes or Christmas carols.
But it's Stapleton's raw, moonshiner-with-a-sharp-knife vocals and the gritty songs he usually co-writes with Henderson that cause even traditionalist bluegrass Nazis to nod their heads and christen Steeldrivers the real deal. So real, in fact, the band has won all kinds of International Bluegrass Music Association awards since releasing Steeldrivers in 2008.
Stapleton, however, left the group last April to, according to the official announcement, spend more time raising his family and concentrating on songwriting, which has always put the most biscuits on his table; in fact, Stapleton currently has a No. 1 hit, "Come Back Song," written with Darius Rucker and Casey Beathard. Stapleton was replaced in the Steeldrivers by Muscle Shoals studio pro Gary Nichols.
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According to Rogers, who maintains close ties with Stapleton, "Standing two feet from Chris singing harmonies the last two years has been one of the coolest things I've done in my career."
A tireless Nashville session fiddler, she tours regularly with Patty Loveless or Reba McEntire. Rogers was also part of the original alt-Nashville Dead Reckoners lineup with Henderson, Kevin Welch, Harry Stinson and Kieran Kane, and she leads a violin program in Nashville called Music City Baroque Fiddling Project, described as a "bridge between classical and country fiddle styles."
"We were just blown away with the reception we got for that first album," says Rogers. "Then in 2009, we were able to play almost every major festival that we'd originally targeted. And the acceptance we got from radio and the country-music community was also beyond anything we could have dreamed."
Drop back by later in the week when we'll have an interview with Chris Stapleton, who one major Nashville producer calls "the most talented guy in Nashville."