Of all the subgenres of Rock, the Southern variety is among the richest and most diverse. Southern Rock emerged from the creative and hormonal impulses of teenagers who grew up on their parents’ Country record collections and the early Rock output of Sun Records, but were forever altered by the Beatles’ adrenalized Pop frenzy and, perhaps more to the point, the Rolling Stones’ shaggy and raw British Rock interpretation of the Blues. Stirred up in the crucible of the American South in the 1960s, the early proponents of what became Southern Rock — The Allman Brothers Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Marshall Tucker Band — set the stage in the late ’60s and early ’70s for one of the most successful and pervasively influential musical directions of the 20th century.
The Steel Woods represents the latest evolutionary iteration of Southern Rock, which acknowledges the Pop production shift in Country music while also incorporating the propulsive elements of bands like The Black Crowes and Drive-By Truckers and the looser, jammier attributes of Outlaw Country. Although the Steel Woods’ sonic palette contains a lot of different colors, the band’s primary source is Lynyrd Skynyrd, an influence they readily and proudly embrace, with Metallica and Led Zeppelin also showing up in the Rock column.
The Steel Woods began four years ago when guitarists Wes Bayliss and Jason Cope shared a bill in their Nashville hometown. Their newly struck friendship ultimately led to a professional partnership which was cemented with the addition of bassist Johnny Stanton and drummer Jay Tooke and presented to the world by way of their eponymous 2016 EP. The following year, The Steel Woods released their debut full-length album, Straw in the Wind, which generated a lot of positive press and cracked the Top 50 of Billboard’s Independent Albums chart.
All of the Steel Woods’ musical gifts have been brought to bear on their just-released sophomore album, Old News, a spectacular blend of homespun Country lyricism, a thunderous Rock pulse and a freewheeling sense of musical adventure. Don’t be put off when you see “Whipping Post” in the album’s set list; it’s an original song that merely borrows its title from The Allman Brothers’ classic. “Southern Accents,” however, is most definitely a solid guitar cover of Tom Petty’s piano-and-strings ballad, which the band invests with the power of a pride manifesto.
Every generation has found its own Southern Rock band to champion, but The Steel Woods could easily appeal to the fans that sounded the original charge five decades ago.