As it continues to grow, Americana’s sound becomes less clearly defined. Evolving from the alt-country movement of the 80s and 90s, this genre was initially known for its soulful roots sound. For many, it was revolutionary, given its very conscious blend of sounds and mindsets related to country, folk, blues, bluegrass, gospel, and rock’n’roll. Yet, unbelievably, it continues to be a musical movement intent on innovating, and we’ve gotten some of the most outlandish and captivating material in modern music from out of it for decades strong because of it.
Randy Steele’s means of innovating, though, is taking it all back to the start. A venerable Chattanooga frontman, Steele lives and breathes the banjo and pedal steel that acts as the foundation of his roots-laden hometown. His impressive resume includes fronting bluegrass band Slim Pickins before moving onto release solo work. From the start, it was clear that his heart and soul were in it for salvaging that initial Chattanooga sound that acts as much of the groundwork for any Americana innovations today.
Like Songs From the Suck after Suck Creek before it, Moccasin Bender is homegrown Tennessee sunshine injected into a collection of songs. Bouncing bluegrass arrangements are married by copious string-pickin’ and Steele’s matter-of-fact, crooning vocal delivery. This is whiskey-settled, hearth-made music with a conscience that takes us back straight to the foundation that Americana’s settled on without any cracks to speak of.
There’s no arguing the fact that this is bonafide Americana. If you’re a fan of the genre, you’ll be a fan of Steele and Moccasin Bender. If you’re anything like us, the one critique you’ll have for it at the end of the day is that six songs just aren’t enough. Each of these songs, though, is a highlight. It may be due to Steele’s bluegrass background, but each track makes it a point to captivate with a story, each with a satisfying beginning, middle, and end that takes the heart for a ride.
As far as his solo work goes, Steele has really found his stride with Moccasin Bender. Whatever he does next, we won’t mind if it’s a full-length of more of the same sort of conscious, heartfelt roots he’s churning out here.