|Time & Place|
|Saturday, November 5, 2016 @ 7:00 pm |
4552 Princess Anne Rd.
Virginia Beach, VA 23462
|Military, Senior (60), or Student (w/ID)||$25|
|Child 10-17 w/adult||$10|
|Child under 10 w/adult||free|
Some things come to be in their own time, of their own accord. Such has been the case with The Steel Wheels. In the beginning, it was simply a matter of four young men who’d happened to cross paths at a formative moment in each of their lives reveling in the shared experience of plucking acoustic instruments and blending their voices. But over the years, what had begun organically as a pure lark evolved into a mission: to fuse the personal with the universal, the deeply rooted past with the joys and sorrows of everyday existence.
These thematic and stylistic vectors intersect powerfully on Leave Some Things Behind (released April 14 on the band’s own Big Ring label), a deeply human, emotionally authentic work that interweaves timely songs with timeless sounds. On the album, co-produced and engineered by Ben Surratt, the four band members—lead singer/guitarist/banjo player Trent Wagler, stand-up bass player Brian Dickel, fiddler Eric Brubaker and mandolin player Jay Lapp—are joined on various tracks by roots music luminary Tim O’Brien, Nashville-based singer/songwriter Sarah Siskind (who co-wrote two songs and sang on another), drummer Travis Whitmore and Hammond B3 player Ethan Ballinger. Together, they’ve wrought a work that is musically intricate and conceptually resonant, the sounds serving the songs at every moment.
The band’s genesis dates back to 2004, when Wagler, Dickel and Brubaker were college students in Harrisonburg, Virginia, which sits in the Shenandoah Valley an hour’s drive from Charlottesville. “The school we met at is Eastern Mennonite University,” Wagler recalls, punctuating the reveal with a wry chuckle. “That begs the next question, which is, ‘Why in the world did you go to Eastern Mennonite University?’ One of the unique things about our band is that all four of us grew up in Mennonite families—and I hesitate to even use the word because many people who don’t have much experience with Mennonites see that as Amish, but that’s not accurate. It was more of a secular Mennonite upbringing. So that was where the three of us met, but we didn’t start the band right away.”
As undergraduates, Wagler played bass and Dickel guitar in a punk-leaning alternative band, but over time they developed an interest in acoustic music, as Trent learned flatpicking and began writing songs, while Brian studied guitar making at a school for aspiring luthiers. They began performing casual gigs as a duo, and it wasn’t long before Brubaker began playing with them, expanding the nascent group’s sound with his fiddle and bass voice, which enriched the harmonies. Once Wagler crossed paths with mandolin player Jay Lapp on the local folk circuit, the lineup was complete— although none of them realized at the time that these four like-minded friends had begun the process of becoming a going concern. After making an album together under Wagler’s name, they continued to play informally for the next half decade, while also recording a 2007 LP as Trent Wagler and the Steel Wheels. Concurrently, they worked day jobs and started families.
Finally, they took the leap of faith, throwing their lots together as The Steel Wheels, a band name redolent of steam-powered railroad trains, America’s industrial age and the buggies of their Mennonite forebears.
Leave Some Things Behind stands as the culmination of these five years of maturation and intensive roadwork. Whereas the previous albums were essentially collected snapshots of The Steel Wheels at certain points in time, the new work turns on a concept that dates back to Homer—and the Old Testament.
“We had more songs for this record than ever before,” Wagler points out, “and that caused us to ask, ‘How does all this stuff fit together, and what’s it about?’ A theme emerged, which I’d been somewhat conscious of as I was writing—the Exodus theme. I don’t want to overstate the biblical aspect, but those biblical metaphors are big metaphors in our lives regardless of the institutions they come from. I was fascinated by the notion of going away from home to look for something. But the further we go toward something, the further we’re inevitably going away from something else, meaning those ideals come at a cost, sometimes small and mundane, sometimes huge. You see the theme running through the album, overtly in ‘Promised Land,’ hopefully in ‘Rescue Me, Virginia,’ and existentially in ‘Heaven Don’t Come by Here,’ which opens with the image of an unmarked grave. And ‘End of the World Again’ is about the things you leave behind when you leave home, and in following what you’re seeking, not knowing whether there’s gonna be anything left when you come back.”
“That narrative of following your dreams and stepping against your own comfort zone was replayed for me in the lives of my parents and grandparents, and I left home, too,” he continues. “It’s hardly a unique story; we live in a transient culture, and we move for many different reasons. That’s the personal side, but I think this music also connected to the other guys in the band in that all four of us are dads now. We travel and tour; that is our livelihood, and when we’re gone we’re really gone. But when we come off the road, we’re really home. So we live with that push and pull.”
Home, family, community (further evidenced in the band’s annual Red Wing Roots Music Festival, the third edition of which will take place in July), a sense of belonging, seeking and finding, the pendulum of gains and losses—these are the Big Issues embedded into the fabric of Leave Some Things Behind, an album that promises to be as enduringly relevant fort the listener as it will always remain for the dedicated artists who poured their hearts and souls into its creation.
What sets The Steel Wheels from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia apart from many bands is the combination of their stellar instrumentals, accentuated by the one of a kind lead vocal of Wagler, and keenly supported by strong harmonies. Eric Brubaker on fiddle, Jay Lapp on mandolin, and Brian Dickel on bass weave in and out intricately throughout this record, painting vivid imagery which flows effortlessly, just teasing the lyrics enough to allow them to resonate within you.
Country Standard Time
Acredale is Brent Gable, Michael Munden, and Coleman Senecal. Brent and Michael met in the early 80s at a 24-hour music marathon for charity and their pathways have crossed ever since. Their first group was the band Just Plain Folk, was formed in the mid-80s. They played coffee houses and venues up and down the east coast.
Together as a duo or in several other bands these two have performed on many stages. One of their bands, Sea Aira, put out a fine cd that was highly reviewed, received local airplay, and they even won a major talent competition. They have opened for the likes of David Wilcox, Iris Dement and America.
Brent Gable started playing the guitar and singing in his early teens and began writing songs soon after. He gravitates towards songs that tell a story or take you for a ride. He is an accomplished fingerstyle player and has a particular fondness for country blues and folk music.
Michael Munden can play practically anything with strings and has also been a musician since his teens. Mike is known for his tasteful mandolin, banjo, and pedal steel work. Brent likes to say he is the glue that holds it all together.
Coleman Senecal is Brent’s daughter. She has been around acoustic music her entire life and started playing fiddle and singing at an early age. She graduated from Virginia Wesleyan College with a major in Music Performance.
Now the three have come together to form the talented trio Acredale? Mostly original tunes with a few classics they just can’t seem to get out of their heads. Acredale is a pleasure to see in performance. Their upcoming opening act performance with the Steel Wheels is going to make everyone sit-up and take notice.