The Steel Wheels have captured audiences across the country with their heady brew of original soulful mountain music and their deep commitment to roots and community. Based in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, this dynamic four-piece string band marries old-time musical traditions with their own innovative sound and lifestyle, generating a truly magnetic revival.
The Steel Wheels is an amalgamation of hard work and easy rapport. The band is renowned for their raw energy and chemistry on stage, where they often cluster tightly around a single microphone to adorn Trent Wagler’s unmistakable tenor with bell-clear four-part harmonies inspired by their shared Mennonite heritage. Add to this Eric Brubaker’s evocative fiddle, Brian Dickel’s grounded upright bass, and Jay Lapp’s signature mandolin style, and it’s no surprise that The Steel Wheels have enthralled the contemporary Americana scene.
Their breakout album, Red Wing (2010), garnered critical praise and enjoyed tremendous success on the radio. It spent 13 weeks on the Americana Music Association’s Top 40 Chart, where it reached the number 15 slot, and cracked the Euro Americana Chart top 10. The Steel Wheels were nominated for five Independent Music Awards in 2010, with “Nothing You Can’t Lose” taking top honors as Best Country Song. Following 2011's release, Live at Goose Creek, The Steel Wheels continued to take the Americana scene by storm with their album, Lay Down, Lay Low (2012), which lingered for 10 weeks on the AMA’s Top 40 Chart and was the 2012 Americana Album of the Year from the Independent Music Awards. Additionally NPR Music named “Rain in the Valley” their Song of the Day, marveling that the “heavy hymn […] is sparse and dense all at once.” 2013 brought yet another Americana charting release entitled, No More Rain.
The Steel Wheels are selling out venues from coast to coast and appearing at many of the top festivals in the US & Canada. These include Merlefest, Bristol Rhythm & Roots, Ann Arbor Folk Festival, Stagecoach, Fayetteville Roots Festival, Moab Folk Festival, Musikfest, Walnut Valley Festival, Canmore Folk Festival, Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival, Riverhawk, Kerrville Folk Festival, and many others. 2014 shows no signs of slowing down with a full schedule of prestigious festivals and venues. In 2013 the band hosted their own annual Red Wing Roots Music Festival (www.redwingroots.com) that brought over 40 bands to 4 stages for 3 days of music & community. In addition as the schedule allows, the band organizes and perform the SpokeSongs bicycle music tour, during which the band members tow their instruments, equipment, and merchandise from one show to another via bicycle. Past tours have spanned up to 11 days, 600 miles, and 10 shows. The attention from these special SpokeSongs tours allow the band to raise extra money and awareness for charities and causes along the way.
As the band thrives, so do their partnerships with local businesses, artisans, and charitable organizations. The values portrayed in their music—devotion to roots, community, and family—are a way of life for The Steel Wheels, and this is reflected in everything from production process and booking agency to merchandise and touring. The band’s merchandise represents a host of grassroots connections to people and businesses. Lucas Roasting Company, located just outside of Harrisonburg, created “Halfway to Heaven” dark roast coffee in honor of their friends The Steel Wheels. Blue Mountain Brewery, located on Afton Mountain in Virginia, hosted the band when they were just getting started and now cans and bottles a multi-state distributed “Steel Wheels ESB.” T-shirts and printing needs are locally sourced and their one of a kind ceramic mugs are made by a potter friend, Justin Rothshank. Each product is intimately woven into the bands' narrative. The Steel Wheels are proof that music remains a viable and sustaining force for connection in our world.
“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.”
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