Songs of Steel and Wood – Steel & Wood

Based in Petoskey, Michigan, Steel & Wood rightfully describes itself as a band that specializes in heartfelt music borne from tradition, and the roots that originated in Appalachia, specifically the seminal sounds of Bill Monroe, Ralph Stanley, Jim & Jesse, and other essential architects of basic bluegrass. Its members include John A. Neiswander (lead guitar), Irene Kazmers (fiddle, guitar), Dave Eggebrecht (mandolin and fiddle), Paul Bachleda (banjo),with John Belfy and Kathy Tuinhoff alternating on upright bass. 

Like its critically-acclaimed previous album, Along the Track, Songs of Steel & Wood takes its cue from the culture of the early railroad pioneers, both regarding their handle and songs which sing the praises of early railway workers. The music is culled from a variety of sources, including covers by Bill Monroe, Earl Scruggs, Larry Cordle, and Molly Tuttle, all of which is spawned from a traditional template. So while it’s clear that the band pays due diligence to their forebears, they’re also adept enough to include five of their own songs in the set.

The group’s ambitions are evident in other ways as well. The new album is a double disc containing some 22 songs, all of which manage to maintain the same momentum. Regardless of the source, the material keeps a consistently upbeat attitude courtesy of a sound that’s driving, determined, and fully fueled by their unabashed enthusiasm. The evidence is found within the rousing revelry and spirited sound of My Little Georgia Rose, a timeless take on the traditional standard, Nine Pound Hammer, the upbeat instrumental, Angeline the Baker, and a song that at its essence reflects a spiritual core, Twenty Acres and a Skinny Mule. Taken as a whole, it emerges as a sound that’s consistently compelling.

That said, Steel & Wood doesn’t ever aim to overwhelm. The easy ambling title track, the rambling pair Long Journey Home and Foggy Mountain Breakdown, the serendipitous sway and steady stride of Midnight on the Stormy Deep, the celebratory suggestion of Back in My Baby’s Arms Again, and the heartfelt emotion inherent in In the Pouring Rain, all add an extra measure of depth and devotion. 

True to form, Songs of Steel & Wood makes no distinction between its archival offerings and the band’s occasional originals. It underscores the band’s agility and ability, and reinforces the fact that Steel & Wood, true to their handle, remain as vital as they are vibrant.

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About the Author

Lee Zimmerman

Lee Zimmerman has been a writer and reviewer for the better part of the past 20 years. He writes for the following publications — No Depression, Goldmine, Country Standard TIme, Paste, Relix, Lincoln Center Spotlight, Fader, and Glide. A lifelong music obsessive and avid collector, he firmly believes that music provides the soundtrack for our lives and his reverence for the artists, performers and creative mind that go into creating their craft spurs his inspiration and motivation for every word hie writes.