It’s a band! It’s acoustic! It’s Steelwind! And they are taking the Oklahoma bluegrass scene by storm.
Recently, I had the opportunity to visit with the young duo who lead the band, Blake Parks and Michael Henneberry, both Oklahoma natives.
Coming from a family deeply rooted in bluegrass, Blake says, “I knew I wanted to play the fiddle, and then Dad happened to have a fiddle in the closet. He let me bow on it and noticed I had a natural bow.” So Parks started in with classical violin lessons, for about 4 weeks. He then realized after he got the basics down, that what he wanted to learn was Boil Them Cabbage Down.
Parks’ Dad, Kenny was working with Byron Berline on organizing Oklahoma’s International Bluegrass Festival, and Berline had instructional VHS tapes, which Blake used daily to learn how to really fiddle at the age of 12. Blake began to play with his family, The Parks Family Band, made up of his parents Cindy (guitar), Kenny, (upright bass) and siblings Sam, (mandolin), and Joel (bones/banjo).
Blake attended college at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater and played in Flatland Grass Band with his older brother, Sam. Due to Blake’s versatility, he has also played with a rock n roll band, Nicnos. Recently, Parks left Nicnos to concentrate on his songwriting skills, and further pursue bluegrass with Steelwind.
Inspiring others is also another talent Blake has. Byron Berline remembers a day when Parks came into the Double Stop Fiddle Shop. He picked up a CD and said, “I want to buy this.” As Parks opened his wallet, he realized he didn’t have a dime, and Berline said “You are a flat broke fiddler!” As Byron smiled, he was later inspired to write a fiddle song named Flat Broke Fiddler and titled is whole next album after this story.
Michael Henneberry works by day as an orthodontist, however, during his spare time you can hear him on guitar and singing vocals with Steelwind. During his college years, he worked his summers in New Mexico at the Philmont Scout Ranch. There he would dress up as a logger or mountain man, and perform in the mountains for troops passing through. That is where he found his love for bluegrass music. “All of the aspects of bluegrass appealed to me.”
After graduating from college, a friend introduced Henneberry to Parks, and from there we have Steelwind. Michael says, “When I met Blake, I had written maybe 1 ½ songs.” With a little background, Henneberry has stood up to the pressures of “making it” in the bluegrass world.
In 2009, this Oklahoma born bluegrass outfit began jamming at festivals, and recently was the opening act for Asleep at the Wheel, and The Byron Berline Band. One year after joining forces, The Sound of a Train was released, and in April 2016, they released their second album titled, F5. Their friendship ignites a creative force in songwriting skills for this talented duo. Much like lightning and thunder in an Oklahoma storm, this duo and their band will literally touch your soul.
When a group has the soulful originality, the harmonies, and the powerful lead vocals, as well as top notch instrumentalists, then you have the brewing of a terrific storm. To catch the latest schedule, click your way over to www.steelwindmusic.com, so you can track the live performance schedule or purchase an autographed CD.
Steelwind’s five-piece band is completed by Kenny Parks (upright bass), Joel Parks (banjo), and Adam Davis (dobro), making for an outstanding group that will definitely brew up a storm in the bluegrass world. You better watch out.