With a pair of critically acclaimed Woods Music/Thirty Tigers releases under their belts in Straw in the Wind(2017) and Old News(2019), Nashville-based The Steel Woods have lived up to their name as a hybrid musical force both in the studio, but especially live.
The band’s two original members are native sons of the south who both hale from small-town backgrounds. The Alabama-born Wes Bayliss played harmonica from the age of eight in his family’s gospel band, eventually teaching himself piano, bass, and drums. Jason “Rowdy” Cope turned his love of Jimmy Page and Jimi Hendrix into a career as a session guitarist/songwriter and producer, moving to Los Angeles, then playing in Jamey Johnson’s band for nine years. The two met in Nashville playing for the same cover band in some out-of-town dive, and immediately discovered an affinity for each other. Part hard-edged Southern rock, part Americana roots country folk, man-made, yet organic, rock but also bluegrass, R&B, blues, gospel, soul and heavy metal, The Steel Woods’ completed their first recordings barely months after they first met before being joined by current bassist Johnny Stanton.
While their albums have received kudos, it is live where The Steel Woods truly shine, expanding on the blueprints on record, involving the crowd in a joyous, communal experience. “We want to get good songs out to a bunch of people who need them,” says Wes. “We just want to make a living making music because it’s the greatest job in the world. I don’t mind working, but I prefer loving what I do.”Over the course of just over three years as a band, The Steel Woods have toured with fellow Southern rockers like Cody Johnson, Cody Jinks, Whiskey Myers, and Blackberry Smoke as well as inspirations such as Lynyrd Skynyrd and Miranda Lambert, performing in Europe for the first time last year. In between another hectic year of concert dates, The Steel Woods are also preparing to release their third studio album for Woods Music/Thirty Tigers. “We’re going to tour these two records and do everything in our power to do them justice and get our music out to our fans,” says Wes. Rolling Stone said The Steel Woods repurposed their cover of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ “Southern Accent” into a “roaring… Southern rock power ballad,” while Saving Country Music raved, “Though there is not a shortage of Southern rock bands, few have the edge and darkness The Steel Woods bring to the table.”
All upcoming dates can be found on their website at thesteelwoods.com.
“It’s a song about taking the risk to do what you love,” Alice Wallace says of the soaring track, “The Blue,” which yields a lyric entitling her spellbinding new album. With Into the Blue, the California-country singer-songwriter conjures the atmospheric sound of the Golden State’s canyons and deserts, mountains and crashing waves, its crowning beauty and its tragic losses. At the same time, the supple-voiced Wallace tells her own and others’ stories, weaving tales that resonate as we grapple with so many disturbing national issues.
Into the Blue is Wallace’s fourth album but marks her debut on the brand-new Rebelle Road label, an imprint founded by a trio of women dedicated to strengthening the California Country music community and expanding visibility for female artists in the Americana/roots genre. “They care so deeply about giving women a stronger voice in the music industry,” Wallace attests. Having spent the past six years writing songs and touring the nation – from AMERICANAFEST® to county fairs, barrooms to coffeehouses – Alice Wallace is ready to break out. “It takes bravery to ‘sail away into the blue’ and grab it,” she says. “It took me until about six years ago to finally take the plunge, quit my job and go for it. I haven’t looked back since.”
It was after Wallace’s return to her birth state of California that she fully embraced her calling as a singer-songwriter. Her musical family had relocated to rural St. Cloud, Florida when she was a child. She grew up around the sounds of her parents playing guitars and singing, with “Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris, their favorite,” she recalls. She also absorbed the country-rock of ‘70s-era Linda Ronstadt on the turntable. “I really taught myself to sing by mimicking their styles,” she says. “The powerful belt that Linda has. The emotive lilt to Emmylou’s voice. Trying to navigate those different elements helped me find my own voice nestled in between all that.” She first picked up a guitar at age 10, with her dad teaching her to finger-pick at 15, and by senior year in high school, Wallace was performing original compositions at the local Borders bookstore. It was in college that she discovered yet another calling: yodeling, that haunting vocal style that blends blues, country, and western. Wallace’s own “A Little Yodel” added her to the ranks of legends Patsy Montana and Carolina Cotton.
In 2008, when the Wallace family relocated back to Southern California, she joined them. There, she began focusing on writing, performing, and touring, both solo and with a band. Since 2013, she performs some 200 dates a year. One of those with whom she’s shared stages is singer-songwriter Ray Wylie Hubbard, who says she and her “stunning” songcraft have that “Steve McQueen ‘Cincinnati Kid’ cool.” Pundits agree: she won the 2017 Female Vocalist of the Year at the California Country Awards and the previous year’s Best Country/Americana Artist at the L.A. Music Critic Awards. She was recently singled out by the Los Angeles Daily News and Pollstar for her “dead-on lovely version” of Ronstadt’s “throbbing” “Long Long Time” at the “Palomino Rides Again” event celebrating the legendary California honky-tonk.
Into the Blue represents Wallace’s evolution as a recording artist, showcasing her growth as a songwriter as she embraces a fuller sound, backed by some of Americana’s most distinctive players. Co-produced by Steve Berns and Rebelle Road’s studio veteran, songwriter and musician KP Hawthorn (who’ve made a name for themselves working with artists in the West coast Americana scene), the album is brimming with soul. The formidable rhythm section, including drummer Jay Bellerose (Bonnie Raitt, Elton John, Aimee Mann) and bassist Jennifer Condos (Jackson Browne, Graham Nash), underpins instrumentation ranging from Tom Bremer’s crunchy electric guitar to Kaitlin Wolfberg’s lush string arrangements to keys and pedal steel from Jeremy Long (Sam Outlaw).
Wallace uses an intoxicating array of vocal styles to bring her songs to life: a dusky alto on “The Lonely Talking” (co-written with KP Hawthorn); gospel-tinged belting on “When She Cries” (inspired by the end of a six-year drought in California), and a soaring soprano on “Santa Ana Winds.” The latter, a country-rock chronicle of California’s devastating wildfires, is a co-write with Dallas artist Andrew Delaney, a frequent collaborator whom she calls “the most brilliant lyricist I’ve ever met.” Wallace inhabits his stirring “Elephants,” giving voice to women who refuse to be “quiet as a mouse in a room full of elephants.” The Wallace-Delaney-penned “Echo Canyon” is, she says, “a southwestern cowboy ballad that’s a modern take on a yodel song.” Wallace’s heart-wrenching “Desert Rose” tells of a young mother’s struggle to give her baby a better life across the border.
Lyrically, the heart of the album is the luminous anthem, “The Blue,” says Wallace. It describes her own journey to “get over my fears and go for the thing I love the most.” She knew that being a traveling troubadour and committing herself fully to music could be a dangerous choice. “In some ways, I wish I had done it sooner,” she says. “But I’m also glad I have the life experience to help fuel my songwriting and survive life on the road.” The highly charged emotional feel of “The Blue” derives in part from its exquisite layered harmonies – Wallace’s vocals joined by those of her father, mother, and brother. Known as “blood harmony,” when kinfolk sing together, it conveys a rapturous kind of purity and strength. That buoyancy radiates throughout Alice Wallace’s Into the Blue, lifting her listeners up, transporting them into the world of a seasoned troubadour looking back from a dream realized and dues paid without regret.
A tractor cab might not seem like the ideal place for an aspiring artist to nurture her musical dreams, but it sure did the trick for Clare Dunn. Growing up in tiny Two Buttes, Colorado (population: 43), she spent days at a time helping plow and plant the family farm, sharpening her ears with uninterrupted music-listening in the driver’s seat, even as she strengthened her work ethic. “That’s where a lot of my creativity came from and where a lot of my vision was forged, was just having nothing else to do other than listen to music and dream all day long in the vast wide open of those plains,” she reflects.
By the time the genial, grounded Great Plains native got the chance to record for MCA Nashville, she had fine-tuned her creative vision and was ready to do what it would take to make it a reality, which landed her in a truly unique position: she is the only female country artist in recent memory to have a hand in all of the writing, arranging and producing for her debut release, the Clare Dunn EP.
“I remember feeling like, ‘I know that I’m asking my label to take this tremendous leap of faith on me. I will be in the studio day and night. I will go until it’s right,’” says the guitar-slinging singer and songwriter. “I feel so grateful that I’ve had a team around me that’s allowed me to do that and supported me every step of the way.”
True to her word, Dunn spent virtually every waking moment holed up in The Cave at Nashville’s House of Blues studios, crafting her standout sound beneath the watchful eye of a Chuck Berry portrait with such A-list collaborators as Terry McBride, Jesse Frasure, and Ben West. And it definitely paid off. The hooks have irresistible pop-rock punch, the sentiments are shot through with heartland rock grit, the vocals show R&B-schooled rhythmic daring and the arrangements are both towering and dynamic.
Every lick of guitar on there, from agile melodic figures to aggressive shredding, is hers. “I think there’s, like, one song where I didn’t play a mandolin part or something like that,” she says. “But other than that, every lead part is my playing—acoustic, electric, everything.”
That goes for all of the vocal parts, too—except for a solitary Eric Paslay guest harmony. Dunn doesn’t sound quite like any other singer in any genre, but her sumptuous lower range and the attitude and lustiness she summons whenever it suits the song recalls such world-class pop performers as Pink or Annie Lennox. In her teens, Dunn geeked out over a VH1 “Behind the Music” documentary that showed Fleetwood Mac working out their meticulous vocal arrangements, and in the studio, she might devote as many as a dozen tracks to doubling the melody in a different octave or layering precision harmonies, which adds to the sheer size of her sound.
Dunn began paying her dues back in southeast Colorado, where she grew up the second of two daughters born into a long line of farmers and ranchers. “We didn’t have any brothers,” she says. “We did basically everything that boys would normally do, driving 18-wheelers, combines, tractors. I was very grateful that my parents raised us with the mentality that we didn’t even think about it; it was just normal for us to do all that stuff. We were a small family operation, and it’s all hands on deck, all the time.”
In her early years, Dunn soaked up her parents’ favorite classic rock and country records—lots of Bob Seger titles among them—and stocked up on Top 40 singles when the family made the trek to a store in a neighboring town that actually had a record bin. She also absorbed all manner of rhythmic pop and R&B during marathon dance classes, so devoted to her hip-hop dance team that she won a scholarship to study with Janet Jackson’s backup dancers in California.
Says Dunn, “My mom wore out an engine in a Suburban hauling me back and forth to dance. I couldn’t go every day like the other kids, because I lived an hour away. So I would do makeup days, and spend all day from 10 in the morning to 10 o’clock at night just learning dances so that I could be in the recitals and competitions. Dance, for me, is such a form of expression. When I’m making music, I’m thinking about it from a dance perspective—beats and musicality and phrasing.”
For all of her sonic smarts, the aspiring musician lived in a town with zero places to play live shows, and she had no clue how to pursue her dream after high school until she heard about the music business program at Nashville’s Belmont University. The private school was out of her family’s price range, but she didn’t let that stop her, raising a big chunk of her tuition by driving a silage truck. “Anytime that there wasn’t school going on,” she recalls, “I was on that truck. Spring break, summer break, fall break. If you could’ve grown silage in December, I would’ve been on it over Christmas break. Whenever I couldn’t be home to drive the truck, my family kept the wheels rolling. My mom, dad and sister all drove it for me when I couldn’t be there due to classes or internships.”
It wasn’t until Dunn got to college that she learned how to play guitar. Unlike a lot of dorm room dabblers, she wasn’t content to just reach the point where she could accompany herself by strumming basic chords. “Whenever I’d try to talk to a guitar player and explain how I heard things, I could never explain it,” she says. “So I thought, ‘If I can’t explain it to them, I’d better see if I can learn how to do it myself, so I can get it the way that I hear it in my head.’ Lead guitar, for me, was where it was at. I had no interest in learning G, C, and D and stopping. I wanted to be able to sing on guitar.”
After college, Dunn signed a deal that went sour and turned her attention to building a grassroots following through decidedly unglamorous touring. “I loaded up me and three guys in a four-door F-150 pickup and a trailer and we took off,” she laughs. “We put 100,000 miles on it in just a little over a year. We played bars—teeny, tiny bars—and honky-tonks and festivals. It was very bleak to start out with, pinching pennies, trying to magically make a dollar turn into three dollars, trying to keep morale up. Like, ‘I know we played for two people tonight, guys, but it’s fine. We’re gonna get beyond it!’ My family helped me then too. They believed in me so much that they were willing to sacrifice in order to help me build that following to get a record deal.”
The audience quickly multiplied when SiriusXM’s The Highway channel put Dunn’s flirtatious number “Cowboy Side of You” in rotation, and the fans who came out to the shows found a vital, confident band leader stomping around, swapping fearsome solos and singing likes she meant it. Universal Music Group Nashville soon snatched her up, and she attracted in-demand co-writers like Paslay, West, Frasure, McBride, Tom Douglas, Liz Rose, Hillary Lindsey, Troy Verges, Chris Lindsey, Brett James, and Ryan Beaver, and hit the road with many of her musical heroes including Keith Urban, Miranda Lambert, Luke Bryan, and Seger, who hand-picked Dunn as direct support on his Ride Out Tour.
Now, that her with-it, down-home vision is captured on record and her sensuous single “Tuxedo” is impacting the country radio, Dunn is in the position to bring her music back to the people and places that taught her what determination was in the first place.
“I can confidently say I would not be in this chair had it not been for that work ethic my parents and community instilled in me,” says the forward-thinking, farm-bred artist. “It’s been a tough road getting here and it’s taken longer than I would’ve liked, but I’ve always felt confident in setting and pursuing my goals. That work ethic is what drove me to learn how to play, and to go back out and play another show for ten people. Where I’m from, that’s just what you do—you work.”
*Due to the live nature of our Hometown Rising music festival coverage, & external circumstances beyond our control, the audio production in the following MoxieTalk is unable to be brought to our normal MoxieTalk listening and viewing standards. We apologize for any inconvenience.*
Noah rose to fame covering chart-topping hits on YouTube. He received national attention with his blues-filled version of LMFAO’s “Sexy and I Know It,” which to date has received over 26-million views, with his YouTube channel, only1noah, racking up over 78 million total views. Noah released his first independent, original album, Among The Wildest Things, in 2013. His new album, The Valley, has established him as an artist on the rise in the world of Americana/Country music. His songwriting and soulful vocal delivery are truly unique.
His growing presence on YouTube eventually led to his being cast as Roderick Meeks, a pivotal character on FOX’s hit TV show Glee, on it’s the sixth and final season. Noah was featured in several songs on the popular, music-oriented TV show.
After the show ended, Noah dove headfirst back into songwriting and touring. His second original album, The Valley, solidifies Noah as one of the freshest new voices in Americana music. He is often compared to artists, such as Ray Lamontagne and Jason Isbell. The Valley is getting major play on streaming services, such as Spotify, Pandora and Apple Music. Noah currently has over 600,000 monthly listeners on Spotify alone.
Noah was a semi-finalist on America’s Got Talent Season 13.
The South Carolina native grew up in a home filled with music. Always singing around the house, Guthrie credits his father for teaching him to learn his true voice and hone his gift.
His richly textured voice is capable of conveying the true emotion of a lyric. Guthrie has opened concerts for Ed Sheeran, Sister Hazel, Neon Trees, Ben Rector, Corey Smith, Matisyahu, Matt Nathanson, and Selena Gomez, and has performed on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars as well as NBC’s Today Show and The Tonight Show.
Noah and his band were recently featured performers on Rock Boat XVIII, the biggest music festival at sea, along with Sister Hazel, Barenaked Ladies, needtobreathe, Drew Holcomb and others.
He will be appearing on the upcoming season of America’s Got Talent after being invited directly onto the show without an audition.