The Steel Woods’ new album, All Your Stones, is a bittersweet occasion. In January, guitarist and principal songwriter Jason “Rowdy” Cope passed away in his sleep, likely due to complications from Type II diabetes. This record is the last music the North Carolina native made, and it’s fitting as a swan song to a career that ended all too soon.
Formerly the guitarist for outlaw country singer-songwriter Jamey Johnson, Rowdy formed the Steel Woods with Wes Bayliss, a singer from Alabama, after the two met in 2015. Adding Johnny Stanton (bass) and Isaac Senty (drums), the quartet produced a blend of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s southern rock with the country songwriting sensibilities of Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings.
Rowdy was an accomplished guitarist, and his work stands out on the album. The guitars grind, scream, groove, and soar. The album also has his best songwriting, as he digs deep into his battles with alcohol and trauma, and presents an ultimate vision of healing and redemption. As powerful as Rowdy’s guitars are here, the melodies and production equally highlight the lyrics.
Ultimately, these dual strengths give All Your Stones an expansive appeal. You can enjoy it for the blood-boiling instrumental work, but the album can also grip you with its content.