Lush lyricism, passionate duets and charismatic string melodies come together in the potent Americana-tinged, alt-country cocktail that is Steel Blossoms’ self-titled second album, which was produced by none other than Nashville stalwart Jerry Salley. Salley’s fingerprints are all over the textured tributes to country’s past “Trailer Neighbor,” “You Ain’t Sleeping Over,” “Kentucky’s Never Been This Far” and “You’re the Reason I Drink,” and with his keen attention to detail present to facilitate all of Sara Zebley and Hayley Prosser’s pristine harmonies, Steel Blossoms delivers as many chills as it does thrills inside of ten deliciously intoxicating songs. Country music has been going through a lot of growing pains lately, but in the case of this vocal duo, you’d be hard-pressed to find a band more in-tune with their artistic ethos.

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Some of the best tracks on this album are the more minimalistic ones by design, such as “Heroine,” “Innocent,” the painfully honest “Revenge” and the singalong jam “Pick Me Up,” but to say that these songs are anything other than full-bodied compositions simply wouldn’t be true. Even at their most simplistic, Steel Blossoms are executing some really urbane songcraft here; “Trailer Neighbor” and “Killed a Man” are as texturally expressive and hauntingly emotional as they are multilayered in the master mix, and while all of these tracks are a lot more complex and dexterously designed than most anything by the band’s peers, they’re the antithesis of the bloated pseudo surrealism that has begun to pass as “artsy” among indie rock and alternative pop groups.

“You Ain’t Sleeping Over,” “Kentucky’s Never Been This Far,” “Pick Me Up” and “You’re the Reason I Drink” feel like they were made explicitly for the stage and really make me curious to see Steel Blossoms perform live at some point in the near future. If Zebley and Prosser can bring this energy onto the road with them, I think that it might become difficult for their management to find worthy contemporaries for them to share the bill with. I’ve listened to dozens upon dozens of new alternative country singles, extended plays and albums this year, but what Steel Blossoms gives us in all ten of its melodic movements is so much more earthy and relatable than anything else I’ve heard. I’ve never been the most ardent Nashville supporter in the business, but if this duo is representative of where the scene’s creative trajectory is taking it next, that could very well change.

Hayley Prosser and Sara Zebley show off an awful lot of artistic growth in Steel Blossoms, and though it’s arguably the finest hour of their career together so far, I don’t think that this signifies their aesthetical peak. There are tones present in this record that were experimented with in previous cuts from Country Enough and not even hinted at in Year Number One, and if I were a gambling man, I would bet that they’re only just starting to tap into their full potential as a songwriting team. Steel Blossoms are making Americana great again, and sending a big message to the Nashville establishment heading into 2020.

URL: https://steelblossoms.com/music

Michael Rand

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Michael Rand

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