Album Review – The Steel Blossoms
If you’re a closet fan of the kitschy country songs of Kacey Musgraves, or the unabashed attitude of Maddie & Tae, but just wish it could all be a little more country and organic, the Steel Blossoms have bloomed just for you. A cunning take on the classic country duo with songs that will make you laugh, make you cry, and make you think in a listening experience that covers a lot of ground, the two-part harmonies and harrowing tales of the Steel Blossoms are worth seeking out.
Sara Zebley and Hayley Prosser are two former elementary school teachers who met in Pennsylvania while playing in separate projects. Immediately noticing a musical kinship between each other, the Steel Blossoms were formed, eventually relocating to Nashville and spending ample time developing their songs and sound on the road and house concerts. Evoking the timeless sorcery of two-part harmonies is one thing. Penning songs that put this gift to good use is another. The Steel Blossoms possess both.
Their self-titled album released on Billy Jam Records gives you a lot to unpack in 10 songs, with a wild range of textures, styles, and subject matters broached. The Steel Blossoms rear back and swing for the fences with each song they compose. Whether they’re trying to be funny, heartfelt, or expressive, it’s all very rich, and very deliberate. There’s no diluting of subject matters or shades of subtlety here. They’re reaching right for the ventricles or funny bone and demanding you listen. Sometimes it’s effective. Sometimes it’s a little more elusive. But it’s always colorful and determined.
The opening song of the album “You’re The Reason I Drink” is a good test case for this band. It’s cheery-feeling song with a devilishly catchy, sugar-coated melody … that’s all about becoming an alcoholic at the hands of a bad lover. These sort of tongue-in-cheek, sardonic songs make up half the record, like the whimsical Musgraves-esque “Trailer Neighbor,” the pot and alcohol-abusing “Pick Me Up,” and the attitudinal “You Ain’t Sleeping Over” about withholding sex until a ring is produced.
But then bisecting these selections are songs that swing in a completely opposite direction. “Revenge” is a dark, incredibly well-written Gothic country fiddle dirge that would be perfect for your country Halloween playlist. “County Line” is thoughtful and wise, cuttingly true, and the kind of song you might hear from the saltiest of Americana’s songsmiths. “Kentucky’s Never Been This Far From Tennessee” is a no frills traditional country classic about missing your lover.
If nothing else, the Steel Blossoms keep things spicy, and demand the listener stay on their toes, because you never know what’s coming next, except you’re almost guaranteed it will be unexpected. But this is also one of the concerns about this self-titled album—that as a cohesive unit it’s frenetic, and suffers from a bit of an identity crisis. Most any song on the record isolated is enjoyable, with some fair to label as outright astounding. But the see-sawing of emotions makes it a little strange as a cover-to-cover listen, and doesn’t really give a solid answer about who or what the Steel Blossoms are aside from definitely talented, and definitely country.
An album that took the kitschy angle on country but perhaps is more serious for a few songs would be one thing, or an album that mostly focused on deeper, singer-songwriter material with some silly songs thrown in there for levity would be another. Smashing these two things together in equal portions, and purposely alternating tracks makes it difficult for the mind to settle in a groove.
The good news is there’s a lot of great songs here. Whatever your mood or sensibility, the Steel Blossoms have you covered, and show a pretty unbelievable range and proficiency with whatever they choose to pen and sing about. Putting your finger on exactly what the Steel Blossoms are may be a little tough, but concluding that they’re enjoyable, engaging, and intriguing is quite easy.
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Purchase from the Steel Blossoms
May 29, 2019 @ 8:36 am
if even half of this collection of tunes by steel blossoms worked , I’d consider it a successful outing by the duo . it borders on a ‘ grassy ‘ sound , IMO ….tight pitch-perfect harmonies ..crisp production and supportive, trad instruments .what’s not to love about the presentation?
I’d want to listen to more of the record before i commented on the writing . but i sure like it enough to do that . as you point out trigger , echos of kacey , maddie and tae and emily robinson , perhaps , a bit of the o’connor family and that suits me fine as those are all artists of note who manage to make trad sound fresh .
May 29, 2019 @ 10:04 am
Thank you, Albert! Let us know what you think when you’ve listened to the whole thing! 🙂
May 29, 2019 @ 9:22 am
This is my favorite album I’ve heard so far this year.
May 29, 2019 @ 10:05 am
WOW! That’s a huge compliment and we appreciate it. Where are you from, Andrew?
May 29, 2019 @ 11:31 am
Originally from western Nebraska, currently living near Des Moines.
May 29, 2019 @ 6:13 pm
Me too Andrew! I think it is incredible
May 29, 2019 @ 9:48 am
These gals sing from the heart thanks for letting more folks know about them X
May 29, 2019 @ 9:59 am
I’ve loved this album since I found it. Yep it’s a little “all over the place” and I did rearrange the track order to my liking. Revenge is a positively haunting song and the catchy fun tunes like Pick Me Up, Trailer Neighbor, and You’re the reason I drink are great! I love the variety on this album as well. Ohhh and get this…….these gals will come and play your house party for free if you can guarantee them 20 people, put em up for the night and feed them.(Google it and see!) They’re the real deal in my opinion and we should all be behind em.
June 1, 2019 @ 6:35 am
Have them at your place, and I’ll drive up from Pekin. And, I’ll bring the liquid refreshments. And, chips, of course.
June 1, 2019 @ 8:30 am
LOL…..Scott believe me if I ran the world the “My Place” I’d have them at would be one of the fine Country establishments I frequent playing to a few hundred and they would be paid generously as is their true value. Props to the girls for playing everywhere and anywhere though and paying their dues.
June 1, 2019 @ 12:04 pm
I hear ya! Been listening to anything I can find of theirs, going to order CD’s from their website in a bit. Really like their sound.
July 13, 2019 @ 8:54 am
I just saw on their website the girls are playing @ JJ Kelley’s in Lansing for a Benefit for the Special Olympics on Aug 17 at 5p if you feel like taking the ride. For a great cause as well. Steel Blossoms are coming!!!
July 13, 2019 @ 9:08 am
Hey, thanks for the heads up! Will definitely check into this.
May 29, 2019 @ 10:02 am
Thank you so much for reviewing our album. The way you received the music was exactly as we intended and that feels so good. We always say at our house concerts that by the end of the show, the audience should be emotionally exhausted from feeling so much at one time! This record totally represents the ups and downs and in betweens of the who we’ve become in the last two years. Thank you so much for appreciating that enough to write about it. We are truly honored.
August 18, 2019 @ 7:51 am
The Steel Blossoms with a full band of incredible musicians rolled into
a tiny Chicago suburb to play a benefit for the Special Olympics of Illinois.
Real Country music in a dive bar atmosphere is what’s often talked about
but rarely happens. The girls paced the set perfectly playing the entire current
album as well as tunes from their first 2 and a few classics thrown in all
while having fun with the crowd and in between song banter. You think it’s
easy rolling out of “Heroine” into “You’re the reason I drink”? They did it
flawlessly like total pros. Chatted with em and they said they love this site and
read it everyday like the rest of us. Even though we can be a bit vitriolic at times
great talent and honest effort gets praised daily on here.
Thank you guys again for coming and playing an incredible show.
Everyone loved you and had a great time.
May 29, 2019 @ 10:37 am
What a great honest review!! I have had this record on repeat since it dropped. I love how they take you on a musical and emotional roller coaster without wavering from their true sound. I’m already looking forward to what these girls do next. I’m forever a Steel Blossoms fan now!
May 29, 2019 @ 6:16 pm
Thank you! I think they are incredible as well
May 29, 2019 @ 10:53 am
FINALLY, a refreshing duo bring updated Country lyrics with a classic country sound. I personally give this album a 10 due to vast eclectic sounds of each new song. Their ability to cover so many of today’s issues from heroin addiction (Heroine) domestic abuse (Revenge) social & economic differences (County Line) to the upbeat relatable songs, everyone has a neighbor who is in the know of all (Trailer Neighbor) the person who makes you want to drink (You’re the Reason I Drink) to just trying to make it through the day (Pick Me Up) and so many more.
Steel Blossoms, please don’t ever change I value great talent and you two ladies HAVE IT!!!
May 29, 2019 @ 11:11 am
Seriously LOVE this album and the Steel Blossoms!
May 29, 2019 @ 11:27 am
This album will keep you entranced in every way possible. The songs draw you in for highs and lows, and then slap you with a good dose of reality. The girls sound is off the charts and it seems that they have been singing in harmony for an eternity. I continue to listen to the album on repeat and find something new in a song every time. Do yourself a favor, buy it, on vinyl, and listen to the whole thing, from start to finish, then find the next show and go to it.
May 29, 2019 @ 1:27 pm
I love this! Very refreshing. Each song has it’s own identity, but the album as a whole has a signature. I feel this is going to be a favorite. The only downside is 33 minutes is not enough!
May 29, 2019 @ 1:31 pm
May 29, 2019 @ 1:42 pm
Yep this is good shit. This is the reason I read the site every day.
May 29, 2019 @ 2:03 pm
“…make you laugh, make you cry, and make you think…” is such an accurate description!! Steel Blossoms has had me cracking up—terry eyed—then in deep thought all within a few minutes. Their lyrics are so clever and I relate to every one of their songs in some way.
I think they’re brilliant!
May 29, 2019 @ 3:40 pm
This is one of my favorite Americana recordings! It’s fun, and also can make you cry! Great songs sung very well!
May 29, 2019 @ 6:24 pm
Overall I think it is a great review even if I disagree about the identity crisis thing. I was perplexed, however, that Heroine was not mentioned. We have a clear opioid crisis in this country that has impacted so many families. I say Kudos to these young women for tackling this subject so accurately. I give this album a 10+
May 29, 2019 @ 7:46 pm
I love this album!
When are y’all coming to Austin?
May 29, 2019 @ 8:24 pm
We traveled from Aus and heard the Steel Blossoms at Ole Red in Nashville earlier this year. They are amazing live! By far our favorite live performance during our 6-week trek through the US.
May 29, 2019 @ 8:43 pm
I do believe that’s a Breedlove guitar she’s holding in the picture. Been playing mine for 11 years now. All the way from Bend, Oregon!
May 29, 2019 @ 9:42 pm
The song sequence worked for me. You’re The Reason.. got my attention, Revenge set the hook, and the remainder got me in the boat.
OX TONGUE COWPUNK
May 30, 2019 @ 12:24 am
Absolutely fantastic album! The only thing that saddens me about it, is that they will probably be years before they can get to Australia… why are we so far away?! Great stuff ladies!
May 30, 2019 @ 3:12 am
really good stuff here..my only issue is that with the Steeldrivers, the Steel wheels, the steel Woods and now the Steel Blossoms i risk a steel O.D.!
May 30, 2019 @ 7:47 am
I gotta tell ya Trig..I know you have to find some critique in your reviews but I’m struggling to find anything wrong here. I know you are judging the album as a whole but I could see a couple of these songs charting back in the 90s or even early 00s ala Dixie chicks. This is good stuff I will be listening.
May 30, 2019 @ 7:50 am
Really solid album and an excellent review. Sometimes your word usage really reaches rare form, Trigger.
May 30, 2019 @ 8:59 am
Love this album, review was spot on! I was looking for a reason to drink and now i have one 🙂 Looks like they are saving their epic bourbon anthem for the follow up album – fingers crossed!
May 30, 2019 @ 3:32 pm
I first heard them on the Freight Train Boogie podcast. Great podcast if you all aren’t subscribing
They are very talented and I hope they pay a visit ti Wisconsin soon
May 31, 2019 @ 4:09 am
Can’t stop listening to this album! These woman are extremely talented. Definitely would compare them to the early works if the Dixie Chucks. I’m looking forward to seeing where they go,.
May 31, 2019 @ 5:05 am
I love this album and the Steelblossoms!!! Sara and Hayley are amazing.
May 31, 2019 @ 6:13 am
Thanks for the review! I listened to the album and really enjoyed it. This group actually reminds me of The Secret Sisters in a lot of ways. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but this album comes across as rather cheery despite the often serious nature of the lyrics. Maybe it’s because of the chord progressions, or perhaps I’ve been listening to too much Ashley Monroe lately. In any case, I really enjoy the group and album and plan to purchase it on vinyl soon. Best of luck to this very talented band.
May 31, 2019 @ 7:25 am
I haven’t listened yet, but I plan to – seems like my kind of music.
But I’m a little confused about the effusive praise in the comments here. I don’t think I’ve seen this amount of unchallenged adulation for any album, ever. Something must be up, right?
May 31, 2019 @ 8:46 am
I think The Steel Blossoms have a very fervent fan base, and they’re actively working to cultivate that by playing house concerts and interacting with their fans as you’ve seen happen in the comments section here. It’s a good strategy for an independent artist that you frankly don’t see much of these days, and I think it’s paying them dividends.
July 5, 2019 @ 6:20 pm
Also… this is a damn good album. Not “best in years” or something, but damn good. Ratings are subjective (and art doesn’t submit to numerical valuations etc.) but I think this is the rare rating Trigger might have shortchanged. Hope you’ve given it a chance this last month!
May 31, 2019 @ 9:02 pm
Well, this album took me by surprise. Punchy, great production, this original country flavoured music will go well on TLC Radio in New Zealand LPFM stations.
For the Birds
June 2, 2019 @ 8:52 am
Really enjoying this album! I think they’re a little Kacey, a little Chicks, and little Margo and I’m here for it!
June 2, 2019 @ 2:39 pm
What a great album…You’re the reason I drink is one of my favs!!!
June 2, 2019 @ 2:41 pm
What a great albums. “You’re The Reason I Drink” ii~ one of my favs!!!
June 14, 2019 @ 4:57 am
Thanks for spotlighting this, Trigger. I’ve been streaming this album every day for the past week. I honestly can’t remember the last time I loved a record as much as I do this one. I ordered it on vinyl and can’t wait for it to arrive.
June 19, 2019 @ 7:58 am
I just found SCM, so I’m trying to read every article as fast as I can Haha. Cannot stop listening to this album, love their voices, the harmonies, the instrumentals, lyrics. Spot on, great review and recommendation.
June 19, 2019 @ 8:44 am
Thanks for reading Sarah.
December 6, 2019 @ 8:41 pm
What a incredible album I just love these two.
My son and I listened to the two while we were down in Nashville they were so good we stayed for the entire time they played.at Aj ‘s and then we found out they were going to be at Ole Red for his birthday and did the same thing.