Straight out of Austin, Texas, folk-grass trio Steel Betty are preparing to drop their debut album, So Darn Lonesome, September 14.
Made up of David McDonald (guitar, vocals), Maddy Froncek (banjo, upright bass, vocals), and Micah Montenko (mandolin, piano, vocals), Steel Betty granted CelebMix permission to preview the album, which was recorded by Keith Hernandez at Suite 2E in Austin, and Curtis Clogston at Las Barrancas Studios in Boerne, Texas.
With musical contributions by a few of Austin’s best, including Trevor Smith (banjo), Noah Jeffries (fiddle), and Sam Kossler (pedal steel), Steel Betty’s inimitably delicious sound, a blend of Bill Monroe, the Stanley Brothers, gospel, and the Conjunto Tejano tradition, shines like a light in the night.
According to Maddy Froncek, “All of these songs hold a special place in our hearts. They are our favorite traditional and original compositions from our first 3 years as a band.”
David McD adds, “We wanted the album to keep the honesty and spontaneity that we try to foster in our live shows, so we recorded much of the album live, all standing together around a couple of mics.”
Comprising nine-tracks, So Darn Lonesome starts off with “Red Rocking Chair,” opening on a tasty blend of guitars, banjo, and fiddle flowing into a contagious hoedown-flavored melody with tantalizing vocal harmonies supported by a delectable rhythm.
Entry points on the album include “The Lowlands,” a cashmere smooth tune rife with sparkling banjos and a scrumptious harmonica. Vaguely reminiscent of “Tequila Sunrise” by The Eagles, the velvety harmonics blend with the silky vocal harmonies to deliver luscious quixotic flavors on creamy glossy textures.
“Joy” features the crystalline, charming tones of Froncek, whose gorgeous voice infuses the tune with intoxicating surface hues. Backed by Kossler’s crying pedal steel, the music takes on an enchanting flow. “Earthly Angels” travels on a country-folk-flavored melody full of buttery guitars, mandolin, banjo, and a spectacular pedal steel, imbuing the tune with aromas of elegant nostalgia and melancholy. Glorious three-part harmonies, nuanced and oh so lush, give the lyrics plush washes of yummy pressure.
“River Jordan” may be the highlight of the album, as gentle, almost nursery rhyme-like music, luminous with soft tinctures, suffuses the alt-folk tune with a graceful flow. Froncek’s exquisite voice bathes the lyrics in subtle bewitching timbres.
In point of fact, all nine-tracks on So Darn Lonesome are wonderfully wrought, full of delicate sonic allusions, infectious rhythms, and beautiful voices. Well worth the wait, So Darn Lonesome is superlative.