Zero Mile Presents

The Steeldrivers

With Kelsey Waldon

Georgia Theatre

Saturday, February 2
08:00 doors / 09:00 show
18 and Over
  • Price$22.00 - $25.00
TICKETS

The Steeldrivers

They say the only thing consistent about change is…well, that it changes. Whether through design or destiny, that’s a precept the SteelDrivers know all too well. Throughout their career –one that encompasses four highly acclaimed albums and any number of awards and accolades –the band has demonstrated the ability to adapt to change with unwavering persistence. Their’s is a lingering legacy defined by quality and consistency. It’s one in which they’ve never stopped looking forward, successfully marshalling their resources for wherever that trajectory takes them. Ultimately, it’s all about the music. “Our dedication and determination remain intact,” says singer, songwriter and fiddler Tammy Rogers. “We honor our older music by always putting our focus on the songs. Some people describe our music as being bluegrass based, but the fact is, we’re not bound to any one regimen. I liken us to what the Rolling Stones would sound like if they played banjos, fiddles and mandolins – it’s that rock-n-roll edge played on traditional instruments. I don’t know if that’s true, but we are primarily a band that’s centered around songwriting and also just happens to have a bluegrass background.” That persistent push could be called the key to SteelDrivers’ success. Each step in their journey has created a new chapter, one that finds them building on the past but consolidating their strengths as they build for the future. That’s also been the case since the beginning, when Rogers, multi-instrumentalist Mike Henderson, bass player Mike Fleming, banjo player Richard Bailey, and singer/guitarist Chris Stapleton first convened after a series of songwriting sessions between Henderson and Stapleton. What began as a casual get-together to jam in the late summer of 2005 became a fully committed band that signed with Rounder Records in 2007. They released their eponymous debut album at the beginning of 2008, garnering a GRAMMY® nomination for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals for one of the songs in that set, “Blue Side of the Mountain.” That honor was followed two years later, when they received two more nominations for Reckless, their sophomore set — one for Best Bluegrass Album and another for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals courtesy of its song “Where Rainbows Never Die.”When Stapleton left the fold for a highly successful solo career in April 2010, the band closed one chapter and began another anew, while literally never missing a beat. Singer/guitarist Gary Nichols, a highly accredited artist in his own right, was brought on-board for the recording of the band’s third album, 2012‘s Hammer Down, which subsequently climbed all the way up to number one on the Billboard Bluegrass charts, their highest placement yet. Nevertheless, the real journey had just begun. When Henderson left the band at the end of 2011, musician and producer Brent Truitt was brought in as his replacement. If there was any proof needed that the momentum had been maintained, The SteelDrivers‘ highly acclaimed fourth album, 2015‘s The Muscle Shoals Recording (featuring guest contributions from Nichols’onetime bandmate Jason Isbell), garnered the group that long elusive GRAMMY® win with a notable nod for Best Bluegrass Album. In addition, it garnered three IBMA nominations — Album of the Year, Song of the Year (for “Long Way Down”), Songwriter of the Year (for Rogers) and Best Liner Notes (for writer Peter Cooper). Still, one more major development was left to come. Nichols departed in August 2017, leaving yet another void the band was left to fill. Once again, the group rose to the challenge, selecting Kentucky native Kelvin Damrell after Rogers‘ daughter spotted him singing on a YouTube video. He fit in just fine, and today again, The SteelDrivers’ saga continues unabated. Part of the lure is undoubtably due to the freedom each musician gets to express themselves without any reservation, even as the group maintains the consistency of its sound. Rogers, a former member of the all-star Dead Reckoning music stable, is widely recognized as one of the most versatile and expressive fiddlers on the scene today. Truitt and Bailey are certified string benders who take their respective instruments to new levels of innovation and expertise. Damrell’s vocals and fretwork add a fresh voice to the mix, while Fleming continues to anchor it all with rock solid rhythm and a firm foundation. It’s a sound The Tennessean once described as “Gutsy, gritty bluegrass songs.” The Philadelphia Inquirer put it even more succinctly. “You can call it power-bluegrass or country soul, but whatever you call it, Nashville’s Steeldrivers have bushels of it.”In fact, The SteelDrivers’ success lies in their consistent growth and ability to reinvent their regimen. It’s also nurtured the various influences that each member brings to the band. With the emphasis on song structure as to parceling out their parameters, elements of Americana, country, blues, rock and soul all enter the equation. Yet their consistent standing at the IBMA awards –which began when they were voted Best Emerging Artist — testifies to the fact that they’ve been able to maintain a fierce following even while growing their audiences at every interval. The band plays approximately 75 shows a year, including major festival appearances at Bonnaroo, Merlefest, Wintergrass, Bristol Rhythm and Roots and Telluride Bluegrass Festival. It’s their populist approach that finds their devotees — self-proclaimed “SteelHeads”– traveling hundreds of miles to see them in repeat performances. “It’s hard to believe it’s been ten years since our first album,” Rogers muses. “And yet, even with all the change and transition, we still have the same joy and enthusiasm that we did in the beginning. Even as the trajectory changes, the story continues to unfold.”

Kelsey Waldon

Over the past seven years, Kelsey Waldon’s life has changed drastically. Since moving to Nashville, she’s found her place in a lush, supportive, and versatile artist community. She’s released two albums, played with some of music’s biggest names, and toured nationally. She made her debut performance on the Grand Ole Opry at the hallowed Ryman Auditorium, and she’s already been bestowed with one of Nashville’s highest honors: playing the historic Station Inn, the go-to spot of the 70’s, where intimate, post-Opry jam sessions were hosted by legends like Jimmy Martin, Bobby Osborne, and Bill Monroe. While most musicians work a lifetime to achieve that status of success, Kelsey Waldon’s talent has earned her way to the top in a matter of years. And even though she traded her small town for the city, she’s making moves in country. Straddling the junction of the Ohio River and the Mississippi, Waldon was born in Ballard County, Kentucky, and raised in one the county’s even smaller, unincorporated communities, lovingly named Monkey’s Eyebrow. The destination has been spotlighted by NPR and Roadside America, but the Western Kentucky town is about as “rural America” as it gets. Waldon’s family roots in the Bluegrass State date back over ten generations, from tobacco farmers to cattle raisers, and a general cast of real strong-spirited characters. “Farming and planting tobacco were some of the first jobs I had growing up,” she says; but dating back even farther, to some of her very first memories, is her relationship with music. Inspired by ‘a melting pot of influences’, Waldon took notes from a wide variety, spanning from legends like Merle Haggard and Mavis Staples, to bluegrass luminaries Ralph Stanley and Ricky Skaggs, and songwriting greats John Prine, Bob Dylan, and Townes Van Zandt. When she picked up the guitar at 13, she never looked back. “I finally felt like I was a part of something when I started playing and writing music. It was something that finally made everything make sense, and it was a very essential and healthy thing for me during my younger years, and still is.” While Waldon faced a multitude of obstacles during adolescence, music always remained a constant source of stability in her life — and out of that adversity, she crafted a distinct sound that meets at the juncture of classic country, bluegrass, soul, R&B, and rock and roll. “I wasn’t one of those kids that applied for college or probably even took it very seriously upon graduating high school. I wanted to do things my own way, so I didn’t go to college and I moved to Nashville, on a whim really,” she says. Despite her initial feelings, Waldon ended up at Belmont University, studying Songwriting and Music Business, and became the first person in her family to graduate college. While working toward her degree, she played gigs at ‘any bar that would let her in the door and on the stage’ and worked 45+ hour work weeks at a minimum wage job. After graduating, Waldon continued playing local dive bars and venues, including one of Nashville’s most famous honky-tonks, The Palace, where she also worked as a bartender. Waldon’s traction skyrocketed with the release of her debut LP The Goldmine, which The Fader dubbed as “the brightest country debut of 2014”. Relix claimed it was “dripping with the most sought-after currency of authenticity.” The album was named one of Rolling Stone’s “10 New Artists You Need To Know: Summer 2014,” with journalist Marissa Moss calling Waldon, “Tammy Wynette on a trip to Whiskeytown, as unafraid of heavy twang and spitfire pedal steel as coffeehouse confessionals.” By the time I’ve Got A Way hit in 2016, she had established herself as one of Nashville’s founders of the female-pioneered twang revival — a movement that is quickly redefining the modern country music narrative. Her sophomore album ranked on two of NPR’s most-acclaimed lists of the year; Fresh Air host Ken Tucker’s “Top 10 Favorite Albums of 2016” alongside Beyonce, Miranda Lambert, and Stax legend William Bell. The album’s shining single, “All By Myself” was named on their list of “Top 100 Songs of 2016.” The video for the single, filmed in her hometown of Monkey’s Eyebrow, was featured on Rolling Stone Country and Billboard. One of the most notable supporters of I’ve Got A Way was Ann Powers, who admired the record’s “delightfully direct language and delivery enhancing vivid musical settings that demonstrate her vast understanding of the traditions she mines.” Powers went on to praise Waldon’s unique talent in NPR's First Listen, saying, “It’s the immediacy of her storytelling, utterly unsentimental yet deeply heartfelt, that makes Kelsey Waldon a queen of the cool rejoinder and an all-around contender.” Since the release of I’ve Got A Way, she’s been busy touring the country — sometimes solo, but more often than not, with a tight-knit band of extremely talented musicians. But despite the fame and notoriety she’s seen in the past three years, Waldon remains humbled by her success. “I’ve spent a huge majority of my life studying my favorite records, my favorite songs, and my most-favorite singers,” she says, adding, “You never stop learning or gaining from it. I’m still doing it all the time… all the while still writing my own story and hopefully becoming an entity in my own right.” If one thing is set in stone with Kelsey Waldon, it’s that she does have a way — and it’s straight up from here.