(MPG) Virginia-based Americana band The Steel Wheels announce that their new record Sideways will come out on February 9, 2024 via Big Ring Records. The group has also shared the first single from the LP "Easy On Your Way," a hymn-like anthem to find solace in during life's hard moments that defy explanation. Its bittersweet lyrics give way to a rollicking bluegrass-inflected instrumental, which purports that the song - like the album in its entirety - sends a message of hope and resiliency. The track arrived with a homey black-and-white in-studio clip that pulls back the curtain on the band's creative process.
"This song is for when you don't have the words," shares frontman Trent Wagler of the single. "It acknowledges the hardest of the hard stuff, because no one is served by ignoring the pain, but it also looks you dead in the eye and says, 'We're all in this together' in the least cliche way possible. Let's celebrate that life doesn't make sense and show up with the tools to rebuild the barn after the tree falls on the roof."
The Steel Wheels are a band that has been redefining what it means to be Americana for nearly 20 years, and now with their 13th album Sideways, they've managed to create their most sonically adventurous full-length yet - a far cry from the band's origins as an all-acoustic traditional string band. Produced by Sam Kassirer (Lake Street Dive, Langhorne Slim, Josh Ritter), Sideways takes influence from psychedelic rock, pop, jam and more to expand upon their distinctly Appalachian sound.
Never ones to shy away from heavy topics, the group - particularly Wagler, its lead songwriter - penned many of the songs in response to loss and the fearful uncertainty that comes with facing what we can't control. In 2019, The Steel Wheels were blindsided by the death of fiddle player and vocalist Eric Brubaker's young daughter to a rare disease. And during the pandemic, Wagler's child faced a mental health crisis that left Wagler and his family feeling lost and frustrated inside our country's mental health care system.
"This album is dedicated to people who understand that even when we're growing sideways, we're still growing," explains Wagler. "If you had a five year plan a few years ago, I bet it didn't quite come to fruition. These are songs that celebrate the Both/And of life. We are grieving and we are laughing. We are suffering and we are growing. We are isolated and we are connected. May it be again and again, cue music."
When the band began developing the album, they knew it demanded a manner and a space that honors the subject matter. So, the band holed up together at the Great North Sound Society in Parsonsfield, ME, moving into the studio for a week, cooking their meals together around a woodstove in a farmhouse, and, most importantly, playing all together again for the first time in over two years. The result is at-once a powerful, at-times joyous and contemplative reflection on our shared human experience - both tapping into the personal and reaching for something universal.
Since 2005, The Steel Wheels have been melding the traditional with the contemporary, while always remaining firmly rooted in the sounds of the Virginia mountains where the band was formed. In 2017, the band first collaborated with Kassirer on the critically-acclaimed Wild As We Came Here, which features the now ubiquitous alt-folk battlecry "Scrape Me Off the Ceiling." Through it all, The Steel Wheels have been about creating a community and sharing the experience of humanity with one another. Nowhere is this more evident than at the Red Wing Roots Music Festival, founded by the band in 2013. Taking place in the Shenandoah Valley, the festival has featured performances by Lucinda Williams, Billy Strings, Steve Earle & The Dukes, The Mavericks, Old Crow Medicine Show, Robert Earl Keen, Dawes, Trampled By Turtles and more. Outside of their own festival, the band is known for its road-dog mentality, spending many nights of the year on the road.
The Steel Wheels is Trent Wagler (vocals/guitar/banjo), Jay Lapp (guitar/mandolin/ vocals), Eric Brubaker (fiddle/vocals), Kevin Garcia (drums/percussion/mallet keyboards), Jeremy Darrow (bass).
The Steel Wheels 2023 Tour Dates
September 13 - Fayetteville, AR @ George's Majestic
September 14 - Winfield, KS @ Walnut Valley Festival
September 17 - Indianapolis, IN @ Hi-Fi
September 29 - Cornelius, NC @ Cain Center for the Arts
September 30 - Yadkinville, NC @ Willingham Theater
October 10 - Nashville, TN @ Analog
October 11 - Kansas City, MO @ Knuckleheads
October 12 - Hastings, NE @ The Lark
October 13 - Omaha, NE @ Holland Performing Arts Center
October 14 - Denver, CO @ Ophelia's Electric Soapbox
October 15 - Wray, CO @ 4th and Main
October 18 - Salt Lake City, UT @ The State Room
October 19 - Boise, ID @ The Olympic
October 20 - Bend, OR @ Volcanic Theatre Pub
October 21 - Spokane, WA @ The District Bar at Knitting Factory
October 22 - Seattle, WA @ Ballard Homestead
November 8 - Portland, OR @ Alberta Rose Theatre
November 14 - Tucson, AZ @ Hotel Congress
1. Wait On You
2. Baby Gone
7. Good Thing Now
8. Morning Before Long
9. Yes I Know
10. Past The Breaks
11. Easy On Your Way
12. Just Like The Wind