Formed some time in late 2014 or early 2015, Steady Drive is from eastern North Carolina. Joe Pessolano is on mandolin and lead and harmony singing. Kevin Lamm plays bass, sings lead, and harmony. Wayne Melvin is on the guitar and lead and harmony vocals. Lee Flood is the banjoist. The style here is straight bluegrass as bands would have played it in the ’60s and ’70s and as bands still play it when they have a strong sense of and love for tradition. That doesn’t mean you won’t hear a couple modern licks from Pessolano or Flood, and that doesn’t mean all the songs sound like vintage Flatt & Scruggs. It does, however, set a parameter that bends only slightly here and there.
Most of the material chosen for this debut should be familiar to bluegrass fans. Absolute standards such as “Somehow Tonight,” “Unfaithful One,” “Dark Hollow,” “Little Whitewashed Chimney,” “Ocean Of Diamonds,” “Big Spike Hammer,” and “You Can Have Her,” dominate. Only slightly lesser-known tunes, among them “You Can Keep Your Nine Pound Hammer,” “Girl From West Virginia,” and perhaps the least-known, Doyle Lawson’s instrumental, “Runaround,” fill out the twelve-track offering.
There is nice energy to what they do, even on the slower tunes. The harmonies are pretty solid, and Pessolano and Flood turn in some very nice soloing, both very clean and with drive. Who sings which lead is not stated. Each has their moments. Each also has a need of a few tweaks on phrasing and holding the note.
As debut recordings go, this is pretty good. Their notes indicate future recordings will have originals. That will be welcome, as would a little deeper mining of the bluegrass songbook. For now though, enjoy. (facebook.com/steadydrivebluegrass)BW