Randy Steele
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Randy Steele

Chattanooga, TN | Established. Jan 01, 2012 | SELF

Chattanooga, TN | SELF
Established on Jan, 2012
Solo Country Singer/Songwriter




"Randy Steele's new CD benefits homeless women"

Despite what some people think, musicians are human beings. Many of them also have other jobs they do to actually pay the bills. Randy Steele is one such artist. In addition to being one of the best banjo/guitar players around, he is a fireman with the Chattanooga Fire Department.

As a captain at Engine 5 in Highland Park, he has been a part of delivering Christmas to the single women and mothers with children who seek shelter at Room in the Inn. The yearly visits have provided him with an appreciation for the work the shelter does for the women who find themselves suddenly homeless.

Steele has a new solo CD out called "Songs From the Suck" and as part its release, he is offering it for free to people who want to download it in exchange for making a donation to Room in the Inn. He will officially release it at a CD release party Nov. 26 at The Honest Pint.

Between now and then, you can download it from his website at randysteelemusic.com.

"I've worked in Highland Park for 11 years, and for the last 10 of those we've taken Santa to Room in the Inn," he says.

"It's a really cool and underrepresented nonprofit in our area."

Steele started recording the CD in Muscle Shoals, Ala., and finished it up here.

Slim Pickins and Blues Hammer Band also will play during the release event at The Honest Pint. The CD is a great mix of what Steele does well, which is play, but it also showcases his vocals, which have an authenticity and richness that are perfect for the songs. - Chattanooga Times Free Press

"The Pulse review of "Songs from the Suck""

Randy Steele

Songs From The Suck


There is something captivating about the sound of the local Americana/Bluegrass musician Randy Steele’s debut album. Songs From The Suck is a diverse album that unleashes thought invoking powers, and incites dance parties equally. The blend of powerful instruments, vocals, and lyrics combine to produce a crisp musical masterpiece that will rock any hootenanny or hoedown.

A spellbinding banjo sound sets the tone on most of the songs, and the album demonstrates a fine display of bluegrass music; something about it feels alive, like it has a heartbeat, perhaps a soul of its own. The songs have a certain perspective that people can instantly connect with, it is the music of southern roots with a modern day twist.

After songwriting and playing the 5-string banjo for Chattanooga’s buoyant Bluegrass/Americana music group Slim Pickins over the last few years, Randy Steele branched off on a solo project, and Songs From The Suck is the end product. This album derives from an artist unleashing his heart, and pouring every ounce of it into his masterpiece.

While the album is one of the few in existence that is spirituous from start to finish, a few of the songs really stand out. “Eliza Mae” is a love story that has a bitter sweet story behind it. The emotion involved mixed with clever wording and a catchy tune set the track on fire. “Hideaway” is a universally beautiful song that holds significant emotional and poetic weight; it is super groovy. “Angels With Halos” dives right into the art of storytelling, while instrumental “Shove the Pigs Foot a Little Closer to the Fire” lets the instruments do the talking.

Steele does a fantastic job of representing music on his album Songs From The Suck, his musical abilities shine as bright as the sun in this authentic display.

by Adam Beckett
January 11, 2017 - The Pulse

"Randy Steele "Songs from the Suck" Album Review"

Randy Steele – Songs From The Suck – Album Review

Put your jug and washboard down for a moment and put your hands together to give it up for Randy Steele ladies and gentlemen! Achieving the impossible…he’s constructed a country/folk/bluegrass record that didn’t make me want to off myself even in the slightest – in fact, I might even go as far as to say I truly enjoyed my time spent listening to Songs From The Suck. I know, I know…I must be getting’ soft in my old age…or at least more accepting…that’s what I’d think if I was reading this and I were you – but to tell you the truth, a great songwriter is a great songwriter no matter what genre you find them in.

While the title of the record might not exactly inspire you with confidence…understand that these personal tales of hardship in song are still tremendously catchy to listen to, even if lyrically Steele presents a more melancholy attitude in what he says. Songs From The Suck has a fantastic level of contrast between the brightness, sweetness & passion that the music contains and the darker themes, experiences and storylines in the lyrics that I think will help assist this material in holding up over time. So don’t be fooled…just because Randy sounds like he could easily be the headliner at the agricultural-hall town-meeting in cities of populations with less than fifty people doesn’t mean he hasn’t crafted a record that truly has something to say & something to offer the ears…push play & he’ll prove it to you.

It’s through the range of styles and sounds he’s created that Randy has shown the real skill of adaptation within songwriting. By all accounts…genre-wise…we’re on as polar-opposite sides of the musical-fence as two people can possibly be – yet I honestly sat and listened, completely captivated by the enormous level of skill and passion that Randy has put into this album without feeling forced to do so even in the slightest. I quickly became a willing participant in this country-tinged listening experience – a rarity for me that takes a real songwriter of strength to break down that wall, and I believe we’ve found that here with Randy Steele today. The twangin’ starts immediately on “Northbound 29” – but not in that uncomfortable like…you know…Deliverance kind of sound – no, it was much more pleasant and inviting than that, implying a whole lot less squealing, if any, would be involved. All kidding aside – you can hear the precision in the playing of the banjo – the violin (or fiddle I suppose…) is played with intense enthusiasm to fill the sound and the rich, thick sound of Steele’s voice & background-harmonies come across as a perfect fit in the mix right away. Great energy and progression to start-up the record – this tune snaps together quickly and starts flowing immediately, led by the fantastic vocal-melodies that fuel that heavy-heart & soul of “Northbound 29.”

Upon first impressions, you’d be likely to think you’re in for an album full of “Northbound 29” bluegrass-jams…but smartly, Steele mixes it up on the album quickly with a tender turn into “Angels With Halos.” For me – this is a lot closer to where I’m at personally…I like a sweet melody like this. As much as I found myself being cool with the wild-fiddle playing and the back & forth plodding of the bass…it was really this early-on and already in the album that I began to notice what a part Steele’s vocals really play in the music he makes. There are great sliding guitars, sweet drum-rhythms and a gentle-nature to “Angels With Halos” that all make for an entertaining listen – but it really is the sincerity and emotion that Steele puts into his words that take his songwriting to the next-level it deserves. One of those performers that, were these songs to be sung by another could potentially sound ordinary – but the authenticity that Randy brings to these tunes in between the writing and his performance is a strong connection you can audibly hear wouldn’t be able to be duplicated. I’m not saying he’s busting into opera-esque scales or even making massive shifts in his range while he sings – what I am saying is that he understands how to both write and apply the perfect amount of energy, sentiment and tone to the words he writes. It’s that kind of technique and heart that separates what he’s doing from the rest.

Sometimes…a great songwriter even knows when it’s best to step-aside and let the music do the talking, like Randy does with the instrumental jam called “Shove The Pig’s Foot A Little Closer To The Fire.” One can infer from the title that clearly Randy and I have spent our lifetimes growing up playing in a much different sandbox from each other – but there’s nothing that would stop me from getting into a track like this. For you alternative-loving readers out there…think of bands like The Tea Party, King’s X, Jethro Tull even – they all explore ideas similar to this and take that moment to recognize and salute the music. Again…you can hear a fantastic display of musicianship and instrumentation on “Shove The Pig’s Foot A Little Closer To The Fire” – and I think it says a lot about Randy’s music to put an instrumental this far up in the album’s lineup – that tells you he values the music every bit as much as the words, in my opinion.

An early highlight on Songs From The Suck, “Mobile Soon” continues the record into one of its strongest emotional displays. Everything about this song WORKS brilliantly. From the smart pacing, beautiful guitars and stunning fiddle-work – “Mobile Soon” has a tremendously powerful storyline & narrative that really connects with the head & heart. Lyrically, I think “Mobile Soon” is seriously brilliant; it doesn’t try to be whatsoever – it just IS. Everything we hear from Randy sounds so refreshingly genuine, passionate and truly resonates with us as listeners – you can tell he’s really feeling the words on “Mobile Soon” and he doesn’t try to mask the confusion in the words; he embraces it and makes honest use of that sound in a way that certainly translates to all of us that hear it. Everything from the sound in the atmosphere and the song’s clever use of space, to the gorgeous guitar-tones and Steele’s vocal-authenticity and self-reflective, personalized lyrics…”Mobile Soon” is the kind of wonderfully understated song that can’t hide or be denied – this works 100%.

I’m a slow-melody guy though…most people know that about me by now. So did “Mobile Soon” make it tougher for me to shift back into the up-tempo banjo-led rhythms of “Eliza Mae?” You BET it did! You know I’m not gonna lie to you by now dear readers, dear friends – I was initially kicking and screaming inside at the very thought of leaving behind the gentle melody & style of “Mobile Soon” and heading back into the bayou for another potential hoedown. BUT…it should be noted…that once again, it didn’t take long for Randy to pull me onto his side. The verse does what it does…I’d never deny that Randy & his crew play this one to perfection as expected by this point on the record – but what undeniably makes “Eliza Mae” special is the magic he creates in the vocal-melody of the chorus here. Sometimes a single line can save an entire song for a listener…or at least give them that extra-special moment that they always listen for – and that’s what “Eliza Mae” came down to for me. Randy’s approach to the chorus on this song once again shows that depth of a songwriter in his element with a real understanding of how to bend and shift his tone in the lyrics to really make the magic happen. “Hard Givin’” is another fine example of this ability he has to lift-up the material from ordinary to extraordinary – I think he’s done another tremendous job with the vocals on this tune. The opposite case of the song just prior, this time it’s the verse that stands-out without question – he’s done an incredible job with stringing the words together in an impressive rhythm and flow on “Hard Givin.’” The chorus simplifies its wordage, but retains its strength of emotion…and I suppose in that sense it might have a slight-edge on “Eliza Mae” for its completeness, though I’d argue that the main moments & highlights of the chorus on “Eliza Mae” is powerful enough to outshine all of “Hard Givin.’” Both solid tunes and additions to Songs From The Suck though…still no real complaints from me to be found…

…yet. I suppose if I had one it would just be the theme of “Drinking To Do.” Now…keep in mind…I don’t KNOW Randy…I don’t know what kind of life he’s led or whether or not he truly does have some “Drinking To Do.” What I DO know…is that “Drinking To Do” actually comes out sounding less like him and more like an appeal to the fans of the genre itself…and in my humble estimation & opinion – he doesn’t need to go down those roads. What he’s put together already has been more than impressive and unique enough to be separate from a lot of what’s happening in the country-music/folk-genres – to me, “Drinking To Do” sounded like a brief step backwards in the writing, albeit as well-played, performed and executed as reliably as the rest of what we’ve heard so far on the record. All I’m saying is that it sure seems to be a genre full of people that just need to get to a goddamn beer or a whiskey – and I suppose that I like Randy Steele at his best when he’s being more like himself and delivering imaginative, innovative ideas in his music…”Drinking To Do” is definitely a concept/theme that has been explored to the bottom of the bottle and back-again by many. Well-played and pleasant to listen to – I wouldn’t argue that…but based on what we’ve heard on the record so far, I felt like we needed a bit more of a connection to the material from Randy to warrant this tune ending up on the album.

As if on cue for a response to that prior observation – Steele comes back stronger than ever with the short & sweet “Visitation Day” to put the ship back firmly on course. Or the tractor back in the right direction on the field…you get what I’m sayin.’ The guitar sounds beautiful – I love the consistent & constant melody it provides on “Visitation Day” – it’s actually quite a busy performance, yet the song itself comes out feeling like it’s at a much slower-pace through the sincere way that Randy sings this one. This is another highlight example as well of his ability to create contrasting lyrics that contain brilliant descriptions that are often heartbreaking in comparison to the cheerful tones of the music itself – personally, I think this is a strong element that’s going to make his music truly last. You can listen to it surface-level and enjoy songs like “Visitation Day” for the simple-pleasures that the music offers – or you can dig right into it and go even deeper by getting into the lyrics. If this is a personal tale – MAN…I have no words…it’s heavy stuff to say the least, but for me – “Visitation Day” was an extraordinary highlight of the record and shining example of just how incredible Randy’s words can truly be at his most focused and real.

“1983” is brought to life through great placement with backing-vocals and inventive musicianship. More towards the bluegrass-side of country-music…this will definitely be some people’s jam more than it is my own – but again, impossible to not notice the professional approach and intense amount of skill that’s put into such a short timeframe. “1983” rips by pretty quickly at less than two-minutes long…I know I told you at the beginning of this review to put your jug and washboard down, but permission granted to pick’em back up and jam along with Randy on this tune if you wanna. The banjo on “1983” is exceptional – I’ll tell ya that…excellent style on full-display here and a genuine talent that contributes strongly not just to this song but certainly to this entire album as well. Keeping the rhythm up-tempo, he shifts into the friendly-vibes of “One Man Stringer” and keeps the bass-man working full-time through the movin’ & groovin’ on this twang-laden tune. A bit more traditional on the music-side perhaps, but wonderfully played as ever – I felt like the vocals and instrumentation both had equal moments to really shine on this one. Melody-wise, the vocals contribute a ton to this song’s brightness – musically, it’s got some excellent shifts in tone and transitions from verse to chorus as it moves and plenty of instrumental moments that are massively appealing to the ear and unique in their solos.

Without question for me though…the best song on this record came late into the lineup for me with “Hideaway” nearly at the end of the album; also the longest song of the set, but also one of the most bold & most honest. A real case of it’s not always what you play but how you play it – Randy Steele has one of his most fantastic performances here…and it’s a completely understated one that approaches the energy in the music perfectly. Quite often at the beginning of a verse or chorus, he’ll come out big with huge tones and notes to start it out…and through the process or singing said verse or chorus, his vocals continue to drift further and further into the mix. Now…that COULD be a happy accident…there IS a chance that Randy might read that, listen to it again and feel like he somehow lost focus or energy somewhere along the way…but I don’t think so. In my opinion, he’s calculated how to put himself into this song with extraordinary technique and precision…and I think we’ve been shown more than enough skill in the instincts & directions that have led him towards success in other previous songs on this album to believe he’s made all the right choices here. A lot of things lead him to victory here truthfully…the music is absolutely some of the best on the album and moves at such a beautifully natural pace to get the most out of each and every line & every expression from the music and vocals in every moment. As much as I try not to single out any one tune as the ultimate on a record…sometimes one just hits home so hard that you have to take that time to acknowledge the brilliance in what you hear…”Hideaway” is definitely one of those times. With what I’d consider to be one of the most universally-accessible sounds in the entire set as well – “Hideaway” is entirely appealing for the realness in its atmosphere, lyricism and music – this was a seriously satisfying tune to listen to.

Ending Songs From The Suck with an intimate, isolated performance filled with soul & a tinge or the ol’ blues in there – Steele puts another set of skills/style to use in ninety-seconds to end the album on a powerful, memorable song called “…To The New Perspective.” Some people would argue that at only a minute & a half, that any song at the end of a record with that length could only be an afterthought…and…well…maybe there’s even some truth in that – you can kind of close your eyes and picture Randy riffing this one out in the studio – BUT…I think again, you can hear from the insightful way that this final melody moves that it’s as well thought-out as the rest of what you’ve heard. Plus – I also felt like this last switch in style & tone really worked well for Randy’s rhythm & vocal-sound…it came out sounding incredibly natural and put a vibrant, refreshing spin into the final moments of Songs From The Suck.

So there you have it…don’t let this title fool you for a moment…Randy’s the real-deal and he’s certainly put together an album worth several spins, no matter what your genres of choice are. Artists with the blessing of a real songwriter’s gift will translate from sound-to-sound, style-to-style and genre-to-genre – and Randy has certainly won me over through his own genuine talent and truly gifted songwriting. - Sleeping Bag Studios

"Songs from the Suck review"

This album plays like a personal diary. The songs and stories are so personal and intimate that I feel like I know the characters. Steele has a fantastic ability of turning a three minute song into a full story with a beginning middle and end. These are songs about struggle, heartbreak, addiction, and drinking, as well as other blue collar issues. This is a working man’s album. That is in no means meant as a slight. It is just that Randy understands the actions and emotions of the general populace and is able to articulate those experiences into tangible works of art. Not an easy task, by any means.

These songs are pure country and they are beautiful. After listening to Songs From The Suck in its entirety, I feel like I just read a novel. I have these characters and stories etched in my mind. Randy’s ability to describe raw emotions and hardscrabble experiences is uncanny.

There have been a lot of country songs written about prison and doing time. There is certainly no shortage of those songs. So for Randy Steele to compose a song about Visitation Day (Track 8) and visiting a prison instead of doing time, is original and brilliant. I am sure that this isn’t the first song about visiting someone in prison, but I cannot recall any such songs. The only one that I can think of is the one I just heard by Randy Steele.

If you are a fan of very strong imagery and stories mixed with your country music, then Songs From The Suck is a must have. Every song on this collection not only tells a story, but is a a great listen. If the delivery system isn’t good, it doesn’t matter how good the words are. Luckily, Randy Steele’s delivery system (aka the music) is rock solid and road tested. It will also sound great played between Whitey Morgan and Cody Jinks.

Harry Kaplan - TwangriLa

"Moccasin Bender Album Review"

Moccasin Bender seems like a mighty step forwards for artist and songwriter Randy Steele. Mabbit Springs starts the process beautifully, the instrumentation is organic and colourful, multi-layered and expressive – never simply falling into the trap of simple repetitive riffs. Everything here is musically impressive, and Steele’s songwriting is second to none. The classic Americana or country essence has something of a genuine edge about it, which is exactly what you get with this collection – the authenticity, the grit, the poetry, the rhythm, the emotion. It’s a pleasure to make your way through this project. Nothing is quite as you’d expect, and yet everything satisfies in a totally immersive way.

Adam and Rose sees things fall back to the raw musicianship of a single acoustic performance. Even in this setting (perhaps more so, in some ways) the song captivates in a notably pure and entrancing manner. Steele’s voice is mesmerising, stunning even – delicately open and real, delivering these gorgeous melodies and heartfelt, considerate stories and ideas in a way that completely surrounds you. The simple magic of this song is well placed at this point and is followed in a striking way by the vibrancy and bounce of Big Talkin’ Woman.

Whatever the titles of these songs or the suggested genres may imply to you, there’s no describing quite how wonderful the listening experience is without you simply diving straight in. Randy Steele has something special about his sound and his approach to creativity. These songs feel necessary, unstoppably expressive and skillful, and that’s a powerful thing to present.

Age Of Ben offers another raw moment of softness, the rhythmic strum of an acoustic guitar accompanies the driving force that is Steel’s beautiful voice and this totally compelling story-line. If you hadn’t felt the varying waves of emotion just yet, you undoubtedly will right here. Arrangement is important and it’s well utilised on this EP – although, it would mean very little if the songs weren’t so damn good.

Rummies follows and mellows things out a little. The mood feels hopeful, present – as if the song is for right here, right now. The movement of the music feels familiar and the leading melody is quick to settle into your consciousness. Pretty Little Girl With A Blue Dress On comes afterwards and brings the EP to manically joyful finish. You’re reminded of the sheer strength of the musicianship, and once again – it’s purely an acoustic performance. The chaotic pace draws you in and the brief story-line and melody hold tight to that attention. The only things missing is a real-time performance – something that would almost certainly make for a fantastic evening out.

Rebecca Cullen - Stereo Stickman

"'Ark of Music' reviews 'Moccasin Bender'"

Quintessential southern tone. Damn. I love Randy Steele’s voice.

We last reviewed Steele—the longtime front-man for bluegrass legends, Slim Pickins Bluegrass—last November for his single, Hideaway—a brilliant and poetic ode to mountainous beauty—and a featured single from his solo debut album, Songs From The Suck—an album for which he was nominated, Bluegrass Album Of The Year, by the 16th annual Independent Music Awards.

To no surprise, that success hasn’t gone to Randy’s head, as the Chattanooga, TN-based music-man is set to release his next EP, Moccasin Bender, a collection of songs named for a 1,000 acre peninsula sitting on the edge of the Tennessee River. At first glance, these songs seem to pick up immediately where Songs From The Suck left off, offering a continuation of Steele’s humble heart and deep appreciation for the process of life.

“I’m always aiming for the true star to be not the instrumentation or my voice, but the songwriting.”
—Randy Steele on the creation of Moccasin Bender


Opening with our favorite track on the EP is the melodically lush, Mabbitt Springs—a song inspired by the true story of a man making a deal with God to spare his son’s life—we are immediately presented with the fullness of Randy’s current iteration of sound. Banjos, backing harmonies, fiddle, and—oh lord—that lap steel. It feels like Skynyrd went to church and found god in Bluegrass…

“I don’t need your sympathy, all I need is faith
Time has come, and I don’t need your empathy
This water’s workin’…”

With nothing more than a banjo, a kick, and that soulful bluegrass vocal twang, Steele tells the sweet and sad story of young love, parenthood, and loss, in Adam And Rose…

“It’s been 10 years or so since Rose passed away
On that October night or that November day
Adam still yearns and his heart gently aches
When the autumn wind blows…”

Simultaneously the most minimal and the most complex track on the album, Age of Ben, presents the story of the son of a drug addict who was taken from his mother at birth. Randy shows impressive acoustic chops with a tough strum-pattern, while offering a warm and heart-wrenching bit of substance not generally associated with the genre. Bravo.

“There were nights that felt like years, where he’s calling for his momma.”
—Age of Ben

In the absolutely fantastic, Rummies, Steele offers his account of Ernest Hemingway’s 1937 novel, To Have and Have Not, about a fishing boat captain out of Key West, FL who runs contraband between Cuba and Florida. With veteran vocal poise, Randy sounds as though he was there when it happened…

“‘Cause when the handcuffs go on
All you really feel is the metal grind against your bones…”

Melding the best elements of Bluegrass and Country music with masterful storytelling—and topping it all off with veteran musicianship, production and—of course—Randy Steele’s sincere and substantive vocal timbre (I truly can’t overstate the unique and moving quality of his voice)—has resulted in the creation of an emotionally relatable musical experience in Steele’s sophomore solo effort, Moccasin Bender. This group of songs has further solidified my original impression of him as musician of substance, honor, and warmth. It has also caused me to regret not giving him more of my attention the first time around. (I won’t make that mistake again.)

But perhaps most importantly of all, is that there is a universal quality to Randy’s music. Yes, fans of the genre will enjoy the EP. But, more importantly, the album will recruit newcomers to the genre as well. Perhaps this alone should be the true measure of success for any music? - Ark of Music

"Skope Magazine review of 'Moccasin Bender'"

A joyous rustic Americana reigns supreme on Randy Steele’s reassuring “Moccasin Bender EP”. Playfulness runs free throughout these tracks, courtesy of the wide number of instruments that Randy Steele incorporates within the great scope. Moments of the work recalls Will Oldham’s tremendous heartfelt outpouring of emotion and thoughtful storytelling abilities. The arrangements vary, from a full-on band sound to things that feel much more intimate. By taking on these differing styles, Randy Steele goes for something that becomes very truly real in the best way possible.

Setting the tone for the album is the swinging rhythms of the opener “Mabbitt Springs”. Going for a raw visceral approach the fantastic banjo led “Adam And Rose” takes on a quieter tact, as Randy Steele’s voice positively shines with a radiant warmth. By far the highlight of the collection comes with the freewheeling loose world of “Big Talkin Woman” where everything works in unison. Incorporating country, chamber pop, folk, with a hint of rock all of “Big Talkin Woman” feels akin to going on a long journey courtesy of the fantastic strings and highly articulate lyricism. Presenting fantastic storytelling abilities is the thoughtful “Age Of Ben”. Slowing things down a bit and embracing a summery demeanor “Rummies” has a hint of nostalgia coming into the mix. Everything feels perfectly brought together on the energetic closer “Pretty Little Girl With A Blue Dress On”.

Randy Steele crafts a fantastic, fully-formed world that lives so lived in with the folksy optimism of “Moccasin Bender EP”.


By Conor Murphy - Skope Magazine


Slim Pickins - Slim Pickins Bluegrass
Songs from the Suck - Randy Steele



To better grasp the spirited musical mindset of Randy Steele as he continues his remarkable rise as a solo artist, you have to understand the geography around his hometown of Chattanooga, TN. The longtime frontman for the popular band Slim Pickins Bluegrass titled his critically acclaimed 2017 full length debut Songs from the Suck after Suck Creek, which merges with the Tennessee River close to his home. In the early days before TVA dammed the rivers, it was a notorious section of rapids that would break boats. Just below that is Moccasin Bend, a 1,000 acre peninsula sitting on the edge of the river – and the inspiration for the title of Moccasin Bender, Steele’s new 6-track EP follow-up that blends his passions for acoustic based storytelling and banjo picking with more raucous, slide guitar-driven songs. 

Leading Slim Pickins Bluegrass since 2008, Steele has held court with legendary live performances on some of the Southeast’s most prominent stages, and played everywhere from California to Belgium and Holland. His popularity among traditionalists in that world initially led him to hesitate about launching a concurrent solo career with tracks featuring slide guitar and drums – but the critical acclaim, festival invites award recognition he received for Songs from the Suck has inspired him to continue on his inspiring dual journey. The 16th Annual Independent Music Awards has nominated Songs from the Suck for Bluegrass Album of the Year and earned him selection as one of ten top emerging artists by the Blast on the Bay Songwriter’s Festival on Florida’s Gulf Coast.  

The reviews for Songs from the Suck include praise from No Depression, the journal of roots music, which called it a “bluegrass album that falls under some of the easiest listen to music of its kind that you’ll ever hear. . .it’s a great effort to combine just the right elements to make an album that has that overall Americana and country appeal but still true to bluegrass and it shows appreciation to such listeners, with a lot of blues to keep it grounded in its roots.” Middle Tennessee Music (MTM) calls it “good ole fashioned bluegrass which acts as the soundtrack for Randy’s excellent storytelling.” Neufutur.com added, “Listeners will immediately be able to hear hints of Alabama and Flatt & Scruggs here, but Steele’s hook here is how well he inserts his own unique sound. The production is sharp enough to allow each element to shine solely, or to contribute to a cohesive and coherent sound.”

Moccasin Bender builds powerfully on this momentum, with Steele finding the perfect way to bridge his two worlds with a new, heartfelt banjo and vocal version of the mystery infused road song “Adam and Rose” – the original, faster tempo version of which appears on the 2013 self-titled group album Slim Pickins. The album’s first single “Mabbit Springs” offers a full production full of banjo, steel guitar, fiddle and drums. It’s a story song about a man making a deal with God to spare his son’s life, inspired by the narrative on a sign on Signal Mountain about a long ago true-life moment chronicling how Mabbitt Springs got its name. Steele shines a spotlight on his love for American literature on the spirited “Rummies,” which captures in song the story Ernest Hemingway told in his 1937 novel To Have and Have Not about a fishing boat captain out of Key West, FL who runs contraband between Cuba and Florida. 

Rounding out the EP are the hard-edged argument song “Big Talkin’ Woman,” whose Merle Haggard-esque vibe he likens to “sped up reggae”; and the dark, haunting ballad “The Age of Ben” about a son whose longing for his long lost prisoner mother ends badly with an inherited heroin addiction. “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,” Steele says. “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.”  

Band Members