The Steel Woods
The forthcoming album from The Steel Woods, All of Your Stones, took on a newdimension back in January when the band’s founding guitarist and principal creative force,Jason “Rowdy” Cope, passed away peacefully in his sleep at age 42.
The news sent shock waves among Rowdy’s friends, family, across the band’s fanbase,and the music community at large. What made his passing surprising is that the NorthCarolina native was doing so well personally and artistically, having in recent yearsovercame the twin demons of alcohol and PTSD. Though no cause of death has beenrevealed, the family and band believe Cope’s death was related to his having Type 2diabetes, a condition he’d only been diagnosed with in late 2018.
The new album is the third offering from one of the fastest rising bands in the worlds ofindependent country and Southern rock. Since releasing their debut Straw in the Windalbum in 2017, The Steel Woods have staked their claim as worthy successors ofSouthern rock icons Lynyrd Skynyrd, with a dynamic live show and a songwriting vervethat draws inspiration from country icons like Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings.
Derek Stanley, the band’s manager and a close friend of Cope, is finding consolation inthe fact that Rowdy did exactly what he set out to do musically in his career. “He was ableto put out three records without any handcuffs,” says Stanley, whose last text to Rowdywas a Soundcloud link to the new album.
When The Steel Woods entered the studio to record All of Your Stones, smack in themiddle of a global pandemic, it’s clear they had something to prove, if only to themselves.Cope had wrestled with undiagnosed PTSD and its multitude of symptoms after therelease of sophomore album Old News. Wes Bayliss, the band’s singer and co-songwriter, wasn’t always sure what the future held for the group, which is rounded outby Johnny Stanton (bass) and Isaac Senty (drums).
“He was in a bad place for a little while, and he came out on top. I was real proud of himfor doing good. And we still made a great record after all that.” said Bayliss
An Alabama native, Bayliss first met Cope in 2015, back when Rowdy was still theguitarist for Jamey Johnson.
Thirteen years Cope’s junior, Bayliss found a sure-fire chemistry with his fellow bandmatefrom the jump. Within three months of meeting one another, the band had cut the first halfof their critically lauded debut album. He grew up with country music and his family’sgospel tunes, while Rowdy was deep into protometal bands like Led Zeppelin in addition
to the classic country canon. “I’ve always said it’s a real push-pull thing, that somehowwe managed to find middle ground,” Bayliss says about their working relationship. “Andit happens to be something that everybody liked.”
The album’s title track “All of Your Stones” is an allegorical number about all the goodRowdy built — personally and artistically — from the darker parts of his life. From amusical standpoint, the “stones” are the disagreements and heartbreaks that he was ableto sublimate into artistic gold. Personally, the “stones” were the building blocks from whichhe built an inner peace. “Rowdy really wanted to fly a flag for healing,” says Stanley. “‘Allof Your Stones” is meant to be inspirational by using negativity to build somethingpositive.’”
The album’s first track is called “Out Of The Blue”; written by Cope and close friend AaronRaitiere. It’s a personal manifesto about putting the past behind you and moving forwardin the light. “That’s the song that got me thinking that this is Rowdy’s record,” Bayliss says.“I think I [tried to] rewrite the chorus and add a couple of chords, but he made it clear thathe didn’t want me to do anything to it.” “I’ve seen red, I’ve seen white/ I’ve seen death,I’ve seen life/ But I never saw myself coming through/ I’ve finally come out of the blue/Lord I’ve finally come out of the blue,” Bayliss belts on the soaring rocker.
The songs that make up All of Your Stones now sound eerily prescient given Cope’spassing in January. Most of the tunes came from the creative pen and guitar of Rowdy,but even the ones contributed by Bayliss (“Ole Pal”) and guest songwriter Ross Newell(“Run On Ahead”) have a special poignancy.
“The majority of the songs seem to make a whole lot of sense with Rowdy’s story,” saysBayliss. “And this happened to be his record with the exception of a few songs. I’ve got afew on there [that I wrote] that didn’t make a whole lot of sense until his passing.” AsBayliss sings on “Ole Pal”: “We can’t forget about you now/ They put your picture up,down at the city hall/ Next to a flag and a plaque/ That said you never made it back/ Andin a few words, you’re a hero to us all.”
Reflecting on Rowdy’s vision and passion for the band, Stanley says the last thing Jasonwould have wanted was for the music to stop. Bayliss concurs. “We were always goingto do the things you do when you put out a record. Now, there is simply a little morereason.”
Indeed there is more reason. With the release of All of Your Stones, The Steel Woodsnow have the responsibility to keep the fire burning. After all, it’s what Rowdy would want.
49 Winchester just released "III" in October and to be honest, the press has been hard to keep up with. Most Recently they were #26 out of 100 for Best Album of 2020 on WNRN's list. In the list they were utter in the same Breath as Margo Price and The Drive By Truckers and really only beat out by Isbell, Stapleton, Sturgill, Tyler, in their genre. Also named a "Most Influential Album of 2020," by Saving Country Music and "Top Country Music Acts to watch in 2021," by Kentucky Country Music.
The Steel Woods