The SteelDrivers @ Billy Bob’s, Ft. Worth, TX

Words and photos by Duane Clawson
They say good things come to those who wait. For Billy Bob’s, it was a 19 year wait, but The SteelDrivers finally made it to this famous stage! A quick look around the world’s largest Honky Tonk lets you know Texans were more than ready to welcome these legends of bluegrass to the Ft. Worth venue. The SteelDrivers are considered by many as progressive bluegrass band, but they incorporate a soulfulness that is hard to ignore. Their history has been a rocky one, but they have persevered and keep coming back stronger each time.

Former members have included some heavyweights in the songwriting world namely the late great Mike Henderson, and a fella you may have heard of, Chris Stapleton! After ten years the group struck gold in 2015, winning the Grammy for best Bluegrass Album category for, The Muscle Shoals Recordings. The current lineup features some of the finest musicians you will find on any stage, anywhere! Richard Bailey (banjo), Matt Dame (vocals/guitar), Mike Fleming (bass), Tammy Rogers (fiddle), and Brent Truitt (mandolin) form a mighty quintuplet that will stir emotions in the toughest of customers.

I haven’t been in many Honky Tonks but Billy Bob’s certainly is a large one. Bars in every direction you look, pool tables, significant dance floors, and the wall of fame combined to make my first visit an impressionable one! Things you won’t find at a SteelDrivers show, a flashy stage show, pumping bass, or musicians jumping around to prove their point. But you will find the music. Music from the hills of West Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Tiny bits borrowed from other genres: bluegrass, blues, and Celtic. None of which is controlled by gizmos and gadgets. Vocal pitch, instrument tone, and natural volumes dictate what one hears.

Tonight was a homecoming of sorts for fiddle player, Tammy Rogers. A few friends were in attendance to cheer her on, as she has roots in nearby Irving. The fans, who affectionately call themselves SteelHeads, have filled up the tables, and they are pre-gaming hard with assorted buckets of beer. All while keeping in mind the band’s one request, “No drinkin on the gospel songs." Yes, they throw in a few gospel songs too! To keep their sound consistent, the SteelDrivers have taken the time to seek out powerful vocalist. In 2021, Matt Dame took over the lead singer and guitar spot vacated by Kelvin Damrell. Every vocalist that has followed Stapleton continues to carry the torch that he lit in the late 2000's.

As beer flows, the SteelHeads come to life, singing every line of “If It Hadn’t Been for Love” and tapping their toes to “Mama Says No." Gaelic-styled influences are abound as Dame and Rogers trade licks during the rowdy “Ghosts of Mississippi!" Their Billy Bob’s debut ends all too quickly but it ends with the hope of “Where Rainbows Never Die.” We can only hope that The SteelDrivers will return sooner than later to Texas. Thanks to Billy Bob’s for their hospitality and to The SteelDrivers for allowing MTC MAG to be front and center.

Photos of the show are below:

Contributed by Duane Clawson
The SteelDrivers @ Billy Bob’s, Ft. Worth, TX The SteelDrivers @ Billy Bob’s, Ft. Worth, TX Reviewed by Scott Rowe, Editor on April 01, 2024 Rating: 5
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