Evidently, the Steel Woods were in a pretty generous mood when they were compiling tunes for Old News (Woods Music/Thirty Tigers), the follow-up to their well-received 2017 debut, Straw In The Wind. The album features 15 tracks, including six covers—four of them by artists who’ve passed away in the last decade. The list includes Tom Petty (“Southern Accents”), Gregg Allman (“Whipping Post”) and Merle Haggard (“Are The Good Times Really Over”). There’s also and an achy-sweet rendering of “One Of These Days,” by band pal Wayne Mills, who was shot to death in an altercation at a Nashville bar in 2013.
“Because we named the record Old News, it was kind of an idea to bring a tribute section to this newspaper,” says singer Wes Bayliss, who co-founded the Music City-based quartet with guitarist and fishing buddy Jason “Rowdy” Cope. “We envisioned the four tunes at the end as obituaries.”
Available here for download, “Blind Lover” is one of nine originals that stand up nicely on their own as a reluctant protest album—one whose flawed humanity has something in common with the Drive-By Truckers’ 2016 masterpiece, American Band. The song is a potent microcosm of what the Steel Woods do best—broad-shouldered Southern rock with a ton of heart, delivered with the expected outlaw twang and undeniable soul.
“Metaphorically, I’d say it means that I just want a passionate, nonjudgmental, noncritical, non-narcissistic, sweet, downhome gal,” says Cope, who wrote “Blind Lover.” “It made sense to marry it to funky down-South guitar licks.”
Old News was recorded in a matter days at Echo Mountain Recording in Asheville, N.C., and Nashville’s Blackbird Studio. “The first record was sorta blind—there was nothing set in stone for how it would turn out,” says Bayliss. “With this one, we knew what it would take to get the record we wanted.”