"Steel Town" by Steve Moakler
Album: Steel Town
Artist: Steve Moakler
Release Date: March 17, 2017
My Format: Apple Music & CD
In 2008, I visited Union University for the first time for a preview / scholarship weekend. There was a small concert as part of the schedule - a young singer / songwriter named Steve Moakler. I picked up his EP "The Weight of Words" which never left my car throughout college, the song "Stay Sound" forever tied to my first memories there.
In 2014, he released the album "Wide Open" which was one of my favorite albums of the year. And it was, surprisingly, a country album. A really good one at that. Trust me, drive out to Wyoming / Colorado / Montana and listen to the title track and see what I mean. I didn't expect the acoustic pop singer / songwriter to country transition but it really, really worked.
Moakler's new release, "Steel Town" is a honed follow up to "Wide Open". I grew up loving country music, but much of what came to define the genre in the early 2010s caused me to lose interest in popular country . "Steel Town" stands out. The title track is a heartfelt tribute to his hometown and the hard working people he grew up around. "Wheels" is a perfectly executed country staple, using one image to weave together many lives and moments into one song. "Jealous Girl" is the best country song I've heard in years. He exists more on the Eric Church and Chris Stapleton ends of the country spectrum than the Luke Bryan end, and I think his sound is a breath of fresh air. Kenny Chesney almost picked up "Summer Without Her", which I'm sure I would have liked (because the song is good), but I am glad Moakler recorded it himself.
The second time he played at Union while I was a student, I ran into him and his band with a dead car battery after the show and helped jump the car in the parking lot. I've loved watching him move from playing small shows to opening for Tim McGraw and Faith Hill on an arena tour this year. I hope he continues on the track he is on with both his music and popularity - country music will be better if he does.