The Steeps team up with Boyz II Men for Be Still Moses

The Steep Canyon Rangers have used their increased visibility and mainstream cred in the music industry to release a new Gospel single as a collaboration with R&B superstars, Boyz II Men.

It’s not as unlikely a pairing as you might initially think. Boyz got their start as an a cappella singing group, and rose to top the R&B charts by putting their style of harmony over hip hop beats. And like most any youngster in an urban setting learning to sing, the rhythms and the sounds of the church were a major inspiration. Though black and white Christians have historically worshipped separately in the United States, they share many songs in common, and a love for Gospel music.

Since the 1980s, bluegrass artists have been importing urban Gospel harmony into their grass, something that Doyle Lawson pioneered in the early days with Quicksilver. Now it’s fully integrated into the repertoire, with groups like IIIrd Tyme Out singing do wop songs in their shows, along with intricate Gospel numbers.

Be Still Moses is one that the Steep Canyon Rangers had recorded previously on their Lovin’ Pretty Women album in 2007. It tells the story of how the ancient Hebrew patriarch was hidden from soldiers as a baby, and then sent floating down the Nile in a bassinet so that he would be found and raised an Egyptian. For the new version, they have included The Asheville Symphony on the track as well.

Banjo player/vocalist Graham Sharp tells us that they had always planned to revise the arrangement, but weren’t expecting this!

“We re-imagined it a little in the studio, but it wasn’t until our producer, Michael Selverne, got the idea to bring in Boyz II Men that the song really took flight. It seems like an off-the-wall collaboration at first glance, but it all somehow meshes really well, and the Asheville Symphony takes it to another level. When I wrote that song driving my then-infant son up and down I-240 in Asheville, I wouldn’t have imagined it sounding like this in a million years, and couldn’t be more proud of it.”

The way recordings are made these days, Sharp says the 16 additional vocal tracks were added in different studios.

“We all recorded separately, so we have yet to actually meet. They live spread out across the country, so it was easier for them to just lay their vocals on the recorded track. We had no idea what to expect, but they put their really put their hearts in it and the results show, I think. Michael Selverne made the connection, as well as Michael Bearden, who wrote the symphony arrangement and conducted.”

The Steeps have just recently returned to Yep Roc Records, who have released this lyric video of Be Still Moses as the debut single.

Graham says that you can find Be Still Moses wherever you stream or download music online. 

“The single is out Yep Roc Records out of Hillsborough, NC, who we just signed on with. We released one of our earliest albums, Mr. Taylor’s New Home, on Yep Roc’s Bonfire imprint. We’ve all kept track of each other over the years and it feels like a reunion joining back up with them.”

What a great opportunity to introduce two disparate artists to each other’s fan base.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.