Country Jukebox Jury LP: The Steel Woods – All of Your Stones

The band’s third album opens with the atmospheric noise of a truck being turned off. The first track, Out of the Blue, explodes with some power chords and crash cymbals and all is well in the country-rock world. ‘The birds are singing a new tune’ sings Wes Bayliss. The guitar work has been performed by Jason Cope, who passed away after the album was finished and was Jamey Johnson’s longtime guitarist. Anyone who knows hard or country rock will know the guy known as Rowdy, but it’s a new name to me.

There’s not much to add about the music beyond it’s a rock album by guys who could get a few hundred dollars in tips if they played at 6pm in a Broadway bar in Nashville. You’re Cold twists and turns impressively, driven by Wes’ bass riffs and finishing with some elegant strings; You Never Came Home opens with some piano chords and becomes a sort of Soundgarden ballad that has never been in fashion or gone out of fashion; ‘the wind cuts like razors’ is a great line on Ole Pal, where Wes is down on his luck. I love Aiming For You, which is soft and smooth and includes some gorgeous reversed guitars.

The title track closes the album: ‘I built a house with all of your stones/ I kept from all the ones you have thrown’ is the key lyric, underscored by a typical country-rock triple-time shuffle. Beware of the false ending. The album’s second side opens with the seven-minute centrepiece. I Need You features Ashley Monroe and some squealing guitar skills from Rowdy that remind me of all the great guitarists of the last 50 years. It’s a good place to start on an album full of great tunes.

What a shame we can’t see Jason play them live but Kyle aka Trigger from Saving Country Music, who called the album an opus, told me that the replacement guitarist is more than able to step into the breach.

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