Sometimes referred to as a “museum of the managed American countryside,” Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains represent a balance of unspoiled nature and necessary industry. And though known for hazes tinted with their titular hue, this majestic range has inspired creative clarity for musicians from Townes van Zandt and Jerry Garcia to Fleet Foxes and The Killers. This notion of forward cultural motion has inspired The Steel Wheels to spin a singular brand of string-folk Americana for more than a decade. Hailing from the region, the band interweaves bluegrass, folk, and old- time music with singer-songwriter poetry, and its name tips a hat to steam-powered trains, industrial progress, and buggies of the members’ Mennonite lineage.
Trent Wagler (vocals, guitar, banjo), Eric Brubaker (fiddle), Brian Dickel (upright bass), and Jay Lapp (mandolin) formed the band in 2004 while studying at Eastern Mennonite University near Charlottesville. Their debut album, 2010’s “Red Wing” spawned the single “Nothing You Can’t Lose,” the Independent Music Awards’ winner for Best Country Song. Their latest, 2017’s Wild As We Came Here, adds new sonic textures and experimental flourishes to steadfast folk traditions—recorded at a renovated 18th-century farmhouse in rural Maine owned by producer Sam Kassirer (Lake Street Dive, Josh Ritter). Lyrically inspired by news stories about everyday people’s passions, Anthony Doerr’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel All the Light We Cannot See, and more, Wild represents the band’s most ambitious album yet. “These mountains have been here for centuries,” says the band’s song “Valley.” “There’s stories in the water, something if you’re listening.” Through stellar instrumentals and strong harmonies, the Steel Wheels tell timeless, toe-tapping tales.
The Steel Wheels will perform at Carnahan Hall on December 7 at 7:30 p.m. This performance is presented by Purdue Convocations with support from: the Davis Family Endowment, Purdue Federal Credit Union, Student Concert Committee and the Student Fee Advisory Board. Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for children 18 years and younger, Purdue students and Ivy Tech Lafayette students. Tickets are available at the Stewart Center box office at (765)494-3933 or (800)914-SHOW. Group tickets are also available to groups of 10 more. Call (765)496-1977 for more details or visit https://purdue.edu/convocations/group-sales/ .