“On Your Time” – The Steel Woods (2023) [english]

There are artists that I consider absolutely fundamental in my way of seeing and listening to music.

Artists who from the first listening have impressed me and left a mark in the soul.

My North Star of independent music has five points and one of these points is certainly occupied by the Steel Woods (the others are Whiskey Myers, Cody Jinks, Shane Smith and the Saints and Turnpike Troubadours, ed).

The band, born in Nashville in 2016, was the creature born of two artistic minds with few equals.

Two minds who found themselves to have the same vision, the same tastes and between which was born a chemistry that we can define magic. He always reminded me of the magic between Jimmy Page and Robert Plant that led to Led Zeppelin.

The encounter between the great guitarist (who at the time was the guitarist of Jamey Johnson’s band) Jason “Rowdy” Cope and the multi-instrumentalist Wes Bayliss happened by pure chance and, as I like to remember, for a help arrived from Heaven: Wes was singing at a tribute concert to the legendary countryman Wayne Mills, and he hit Rowdy so hard that he knew him.

Wayne Mills, whose story I will tell in an episode of my Trex Music Club show on WCN Radio in January, shares the same tragic fate as Cope: he died just as he was about to reap the fruits of the hard work on the road of those years.

Mills was shot to death on November 23, 2013, outside a Nashville club, for a minor altercation, while Rowdy Cope died of complications from his diabetes on January 16, 2021.

The red thread that binds Wayne Mills to the Steel Woods was sealed by the wonderful cover of MillsOne Of These Days, which the band recorded for their second album Old News of 2019.

Cope’s death was a huge blow to family, friends and the band that had already become an absolute reference for American southern and rock music, so much so that in 2020 a European tour was scheduled.

In those months I was afraid that the Steel Woods would never recover, indeed that Bayliss would no longer find strength and inspiration to continue the project and the vision that was the dream of both.

On the contrary, the band did not stop and, as the great Wes often repeats, it is what Jason would have wanted for his creature and, I am sure, he would have been proud of it.

All of Your Stones (which I had reviewed for my blog here https://www.trexroads.com/all-of-your-stones-the-steel-woods-2021-english/) it was the last record on which Cope was still present, a sort of testament in music left to the world.

I think the biggest difficulty was not finding a replacement, especially in live shows, because there are good guitarists and the choice of Tyler Powers was perfect, but nobody could replace the magic that Rowdy created when he worked with Wes Bayliss.

I don’t want to belittle Powers, who is an extraordinary musician and is showing this in the many live shows that have happened, but Jason “Rowdy” Cope had a role that can not be replaced by anyone and the great merit of Wes Bayliss in this record that you now have in your speakers.

He succeeded in this On Your Time to follow up, alone, the vision that he and Cope had in 2016 and he did it in a way that only those who are touched by an extraordinary talent can do: playing all the instruments that you will hear in the 10 songs (ALL!), producing the work and singing in an incredible way as if his friend Rowdy was by his side in the recording studio watching over him and giving him strength and inspiration.

In addition, this record, in his stories, continues the path of the life of the character who went through the 3 discs of Steel Woods namely Uncle Loyd (protagonist of the homonymous song present in the first album Straw in the Wind which was a cover of the great Darrell Scott, present on this album with his steel guitar).

The work begins with a southern guitar arpeggio: this is how The Man From Everywhere begins.

Bayliss‘ voice is one of the best rock voices in the music business and when she starts singing you will understand why. A song dragged, sticky, exciting as in the best songs that southern rock has given birth over the years.

Bayliss sings us about family responsibilities and children changing the vision of parents’ lives, while the riff of Cut the Grass wraps us with his guitars.

The guitars are fat and heavy, the solos sharp and you can breathe that damp air of Southern music, but the voice of Bayliss opens a gap and is exciting to unthinkable levels.

The riff of Devil in this Holler is a manual of how to play that kind of American rock that owes its birth to the Allman Brohters Band and Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Scratchy, dirty, dragged, and when Bayliss’s voice explodes, no prisoners. One of my favorite of the magnificent discography of this exceptional band. The solo is also very beautiful and I remind you that he plays everything. Crazy.

Famine Fortune has a groove to shake teeth, guitars dig grooves, while the harmonica gives a touch of blues to the sound dirty with dust and mud.

The modernized story of Adam and Eve is sung by a voice from Heaven, accompanied by a song in which the melody is interwoven with an incredible work of rhythm and guitar. The ending is another beautiful solo.

The title track is a ballad where country influences emerge in all their beauty and Bayliss shows all his talent by mastering this poignant melody with his incredible voice.

I see again, without comparison, in this song in which Wes speaks with the heart of the father son relationship, the same exciting beauty of Simple Man by Lynyrd Skynyrd.

This voice could sing anything and make it exciting, let alone a song of the beauty of On Your Time: masterpiece.

It’s then the turn of two covers and as in every Steel Woods album are pieces that do not interpret, but make them look like they wrote: You Don’t Even Know Who I Am, by Gretchen Peter, is an intense and exciting ballad that looks like an outtake of an album with Cope, while Border Lord, by the legendary Kris Kristofferson, is a Southern rock with an almost epic pace. A ride of 7 minutes with a carpet of harmonica and an oscillating, almost blues.

Bayliss‘ work on instruments is truly supernatural: an artist who has few comparisons in today’s American music, a true champion.

Stories to tell to Myself is a melancholic ballad almost folk-blues that was written in 2018 and seems to come from the debut album in which there was still Cope alongside Bayliss: the lyrics seem to give a common thread to all the stories heard so far, where Uncle Loyd was the protagonist and listening to them accompanied by an instrumental part of a moving beauty, makes us enter the cover image, in the shadow of that sunset. Sitting listening to that man and his life.

Poetry and art, Wes Bayliss masters them as if he were a painter.

Broken Down Dam starts slowly, with the calm voice of Bayliss to welcome us, but just like the water coming out of the broken dam of the title, it grows more and more in intensity to get to the umpteenth guitar solo of a sparkling beauty, surrounded by keyboards, steel guitar and an epic rhythm.

You can’t achieve happiness in life without going through pain and hardship and If Not for the Rain is the final manifesto of this record, how to tell us that the loss of one of the greatest musicians of independent American music was the passage to get to a record, and I repeat, a stunning and magical poetic beauty. The harmonica solo perfectly seals the closure.

Life fortunately continues and Wes Bayliss his has made it continue in the groove that one day traced together with a humble musician who had his own vision of the world and art.

I remind you that it would be a shame not to take advantage of their European tour that will touch Milan together with Blackberry Smoke on October 2, 2024: I will certainly not miss it.

Thank God for the Steel Woods and for Wes Bayliss: those who know them fall in love and never abandon them, is the power of beauty, poetry and magic.

Small side note in my small you will find in my novel coming out on June 13, 2024 a dedication to Wes not only in the soundtrack of the book, but also in the name of co-star Detective Bayliss.

Eagle Up!

Good listening,

Claudio “Trex” Trezzani by http://www.ticinonotizie.it

(in Ticino Notizie web site you can find original italian version of this article)

Pubblicato da Trex

Sono un blogger e scrittore appassionato di musica indipendente americana. Scrivo gialli polizieschi e ho inventato il personaggio del detective texano Cody Myers.

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