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The Steel Woods // Live @ Elevation 27 // 8.17.23

Article and photos by: Wendy Podmenik Woodell

VIRGINIA BEACH, VA– Today’s “outlaw” country/ southern rock is rich with talent and burgeoning with a slew of talented bands. More than just a revival; it grows in popularity with ardent devotees and it rivals the “pop” country movement. While modern country features catchy hooks and lyrics that always refer to the same ol’, same ol’ subjects of mass appeal, outlaw country digs deeper and hits your soul harder.

Flashing back to Nashville in 2016, guitarist Jason “Rowdy” Cope and vocalist Wes Bayliss connected at a gig. Sharing the same musical influences (Jamey Johnson, Chris Stapleton, Lynrd Skynyrd), a band was born and very shortly thereafter their debut album Straw in the Wind cemented the deal. Ballads of loss, murder and mystery are a progressive theme. Fast forward to second album Old News, which was a blend of covers/ homages to the greats, (Tom Petty, Merle Haggard) and moody crooning originals, notably “Rock That Says My Name” and title track “Old News”.

Tragedy struck the band mere months before the 2021 release of All of Your Stones, when band co-founder Cope passed unexpectedly. Introspective and foreboding, the album became Cope’s final creative opus.

Thursday night in Virginia Beach was a shining hidden gem of a show, opener Zach Top was youthful and refreshing, every song in his set smooth and radio- ready. The Steel Woods started their headlining set shrouded in smoke and darkness with a suspenseful entry into “Axe”. “Wild and Blue”, “Aiming for You”, “All of These Years” and a bittersweet transition into “Rock That Says My Name”, which unmistakably draws forward the memory of the loss of Cope. Steering the audience through a blend of originals and covers, The Steel Woods wrap a story together of introspection, lingering and loss as southern rock is spiked with bluesy guitar licks and even some metal is covered by way of Black Sabbath.

Tribute is paid to the great Lynrd Skynrd with “I Ain’t the One”, followed by two originals “Whatever It Means to You” and “I Need You”. On the verge of releasing new album On Your Time, Bayliss teased the audience with new single “If Not for the Rain”. The first album created without the direct influence of Cope puts Bayliss at the creative steering wheel, and lyrically he draws inspiration from his young children and the wisdom he would like to impart to them. The band moving forward after the loss was never a question- and for that, we are thankful to have The Steel Woods still with us, creating and continuing.

Wendy Podmenik Woodell
Since entering the world of photography in 2013, WENDY PODMENIK has focused her interest on live music. Her ultimate goal is to successfully present the live music genre as an art form which preserves the expression, emotion, and energy of specific moments in time. ////// GLENN WOODELL spends his musical time working both on and around the stage. He's spent decades behind the lens as a visual artist, and for his career, studied human vision as a scientific researcher. His time on the stage these days is either spent holding on to a bass guitar or a camera.