Newgrass/Bluegrass/OldTimey Cage Match – The SteelDrivers Vs. Mighty Ghosts of Heaven


I received two discs in the mail this week that give, as good any, an indication as to the state of the music industry. The first is the much ballyhoed (at least in the americana music world) debut from The Steeldrivers on Rounder Records. The second is the relatively unknown Portland based band Mighty Ghosts Of Heaven and their self titled, self released lp. While the digital music wars are ongoing and music distribution unclear, and despite the success of the Radiohead experiment, it’d be great to be able to say each band has an equal shot at success. But we’re not there yet. Of these two bands, regardless of quality, the band with the label connections will probably still come out ahead, but the time is coming when that will no longer be true.

With regard to these two groups you may have already guessed which side of the fence I come out on. For all it’s sonic purity, quality musicianship and stellar cast of characters The Steeldrivers left me cold. Meanwhile Mighty Ghosts of Heaven had my foot sompin’ from the opening track. The band’s instruments include ukeleles, mountain dulcimer, fiddle, tenor banjo, guitar, standup bass and an eclectic assortment of percussive instruments and effects. The Steeldrivers seem to be trying too hard to meld rock, soul and blues with bluegrass, whereas Mighty Ghosts of Heaven update the standard bluegrass/old timey sound with diverse arrangements, beautiful duets and a honest sense of fun.

Normally I’d leave with you a song from each, but The Steeldrivers are on Rounder, a label notorious for not “getting” music bloggers, so I fear a cease and desist if I were to post something. The “true” indie sound of Mighty Ghosts Of Heaven is available for all to hear though. Their release will be available soon and has a street date of October 30. The Steeldrivers self-titled record will be available in all the big boxes, Walmart’s and digital music hubs of the world beginning January 22nd.

Here’s two from Mighty Ghosts Of Heaven upcoming release:

Grapes Will Turn To Wine [Download]

Look Down That Lonesome Road [Download]

6 Responses to “Newgrass/Bluegrass/OldTimey Cage Match – The SteelDrivers Vs. Mighty Ghosts of Heaven”

  1. richard bailey says:

    I’m Sure You’re All For The People,
    This will be the first and last time I respond to a blog. Back when I was your age… we did’nt have caculators. Whatever band you were talking about, and their great effects…. well, we didn’t use any, cause we recorded live. Come see a show on me, my treat. And until you run down a band that you suck up to, come see one that’s worked with everyone from Bill Monroe, Al Green, EmmyLou Harris, Dave Olney, Mark Noffler, Vince Gill, Johnny Cash, “Cowboy Jack Clement”, George Jones,
    Waylon…..My hand’s getting tired. I’m more used to picking than useing effects.
    Some One That Will Post My Name,
    Richard Bailey….(the banjo player with the SteelDrivers)

  2. Craig says:

    Did you even listen to the songs by Mighty Ghosts? I already gave you props for being great musicians but in my opinion I don’t hear any passion. And in regards to your claim of recording live, that’s all well and good but it doesn’t mean the producer didn’t crank up the compression and the levels to make it radio friendly. To me the Mighty Ghosts have the more natural sound. Thanks for your comment.

  3. Clara Bailey says:

    The live album was recorded before they were signed to Rounder. No one cranked anything up. What you hear is what you get.

  4. gus smith says:

    Gus from Mighty Ghosts Of Heaven here… I was thrilled to even be reviewed alongside a band with such credentials (congrats on knowing famous people).. and such a good band (I like the Steeldrivers). I would just like to point out that by “effects” I believe the reviewer meant touches of percussion, etc. We are an acoustic band… well, except for the wah wah pedal we attach to the kazoo.

  5. GOOD FOR YOU. The SteelDrivers are certainly name-droppers. I guess they must have played with Hank Williams and Robert Johnson and Jimmy Hendrix, too. I’m getting so tired of overdone Nashville-style bluegrass. If the Earl Brothers had recorded their music on vinyl, I would have long ago worn out their anti-Nashville lps. Now, I can’t wait to hear more of the Mighty Ghosts.

  6. Melinda Buchanan says:

    I don’t think you can get more acoustic than an upright bass, banjo, fiddle, mandolin and guitar. No passion? That’s all I hear from the SteelDrivers. Check out a show sometime….the hair will be standing up on the back on your neck. I do agree on one point, the Mighty Ghosts do sound like they are having a lot of fun.