Songs From The Suck – Randy Steele
Songs From The Suck – Randy Steele, is a solo album by one of the members of the Slim Pickens Bluegrass band out of Chattanooga, Tennessee. The Suck is a reference to Suck Creek that comes into the Tennessee River close to Randy’s house. In the early days before TVA dammed the rivers, it was a notorious section of rapids that would break boats and such. Just below was Moccasin Bend, where Cherokee raids were often waiting, and the Muscle Shoals in Alabama was another dangerous section of the river. He liked it phonetically and I thought it would be an easy title to remember.
Randy Steele makes his message clear, but the proof is all in these songs that go just about everywhere bluegrass can without losing its own ground, but it has it all from folk to blues and modern Americana stylings. It carries an accessibility that is hard to come by in hardcore bluegrass circles, but Steele and his band are well known in their own region, and even toured abroad. Not being a new comer always helps but being new to me it makes all the difference because of the freshness of the songs and how far they travel outside the usual bluegrass norms. It crosses over very well that way.
One of my favorite songs is “One Man Stringer” but it’s toward the end of the record. But it’s important to point out where it’s hard to top and where it really peaks, and I find it to be an obvious choice for a single, but this album has been out for some time already. Don’t miss this track, it’s an outstanding display of what these musicians do. But you’ll find out from the get go, that Randy Steele and CO do the right business by bluegrass by adding just the right amount of folk and blues, not to mention the country music sound from which their heritage comes. These are all compelling tracks, every single one of them.
“Northbound 29” gets the show on the road with a truck driving song that sizzles to the bone. Randy Steele’s voice reminds of 60’s artist Tony McPhee of the Groundhogs, which I am reminded of, but it doesn’t mean he even knows who McPhee is. But it’s the same singing style that could be possessed by a lot of such singers of the past and present. It’s worth mentioning as a compliment though. “Mobile Soon” is an acoustic highlight about missing home, which placed third in the Bluegrass Songwriting Competition. And that’s one of the strongest factors about Randy Steele, second to none bluegrass songwriting.
The latter song is a soothing track with all the zen pulled into one track that anyone can muster. It checks out in every sector on this fine album of world class songs. “1983” is where the fun gets the most attention, with a look back on the year 1983, told in his infectious way, with some choice string bending of which these songs are all fortified with. If bluegrass is your thing, this is a must hear, but even if not, it will go far in bringing you around to what the south has to offer, which is some of the best music in history. “To The New Perspective” closes the album with a hint of that down homeness to show that about it.