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SteelDrivers put the "Hammer Down" on latest album

For Journal Register Newspapers

Posted: Wednesday, February 27, 2013

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The SteelDrivers had to pound through a bit of drama on the way to its third album.

Prior to "Hammer Down," which came out Feb. 5, the Nashville-based bluegrass group lost founding members Chris Stapleton and Mike Henderson, though some of their songwriting contributions remain on the album. Nevertheless, bassist Mike Fleming acknowledges that the quintet was "a little apprehensive" about how the SteelDrivers' new lineup would be received -- and was certainly relieved when it debuted at No. 1 on Billboard's bluegrass chart.

"We've been more than pleasantly surprised," says Fleming, 51. "We've always gotten to No. 2 before, but this is the first time (at No. 1). So that was wonderful news to get.

"You know that when you add two members, something's going to change. But we've always been about getting good songs to play, and once we had a collection that we really liked we just went in and put them on a CD and hoped everyone who heard it would feel as good about it as we did."

Fiddle player Tammy Rogers, meanwhile, adds that it helped that there's still a strong writing team in place within the band. She co-wrote three of "Hammer Down's" songs, while new member Gary Nichols, a successful country artist in his own right who replaced Chris Stapleton in 2010, also made a strong contribution to the set.

"Gary's a great songwriter and came out with nine co-writes, one of those with me," says Rogers, 48. "We had a couple of older things Chris and Mike (Henderson) had written, but we're still committed to writing all our own material. I know our next album probably won't come out for a while, and we haven't started thinking about it yet, but I don't think we'll have any trouble coming up with another album of good songs."

The SteelDrivers perform at 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 28, at the Ark, 316 S. Main St., Ann Arbor. Tickets are $25. Call 734-761-1451 or visit www.theark.org.

Web Site: www.theark.org

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