The frontman for Slim Pickins Bluegrass, Randy Steele, has a new EP, entitled Moccasin Bender. It is the follow-up to his solo debut album, Songs from the Suck. Nominated for Bluegrass Album of the Year by the 16th Annual Independent Music Awards, Songs from the Suck received beaucoup praise from the media.
Hailing from Chattanooga, Tennessee, Steele explains the premise of the new EP, saying “I like the fact that with Moccasin Bender, I was able to build on the sound and storytelling elements that people responded to on Songs from the Suck. It felt good to take that next step without having to do something completely different, while building on both my full-band setup and my more intimate solo style. I’m always aiming for the true star to be not the instrumentation or my voice, but the songwriting.”
Moccasin Bender encompasses six tracks, starting off with “Mabbit Springs,” a mid-tempo bluegrass tune flavored with gospel aromas. A sawing fiddle underscores the banjo and steel guitar, giving the music a beseeching feel. Steele’s down-home-laced voice infuses the lyrics with twang-filled old school colors. “Adam and Rose” follows, riding a banjo-driven tune. The melody is simple, but the stellar banjo-picking is intricate.
Steele describes “Big Talkin’ Woman” as “sped up reggae.” The song is reminiscent of Merle Haggard covering bluegrass at a hoedown. “Age of Ben” is a tender tearjerker, kind of a mishmash of a nursery rhyme and a ballad. Steele’s voice delivers eloquent poignancy. “Rummies,” a song about running contraband, rides a buoyant bluegrass air full of sparkling banjo hues and a crisp beat. This is probably my favorite song on the EP because of its animated flow and Steele’s delightful vocal inflection.
The EP closes out with “Pretty Little Girl with a Blue Dress On,” a barn-stomping tune that’s gorgeously simple, yet charmingly effective.
Moccasin Bender offers scrumptious old-timey, delicious bluegrass music rife with twangy textures, quixotic nuances, and Steele’s whiskey-soaked Tennessee-inflected tones. There’s a plush feel to the harmonics that’s infectious and gets your foot tapping.