Trent Wagler and the Steel Wheels "Blue Heaven" (self-released)
Harrisonburg's Trent Wagler has the voice a bit nasal, a bit scratchy, sometimes soft and vulnerable, sometimes loud and forceful. On this album, he uses it to woo, seduce, tell stories, and lead this trio of fiddle, bass and guitar through 14 moody and lush tracks.
With fiddler Eric Brubaker and bassist Brian Dickel, the band makes music that is sometimes Irish, sometimes old-time, sometimes bluesy and sometimes none of the above. Wagler's voice and lyrics are best when singing on the subjects of love and associated emotions.
Songs such as "Body Like a Glove," "Until the Summer Comes" and "Shady Grove" show the band's full range of expression, although the manly blues song, "18 Wheeler," seems a little bit contrived and out of place. Add on the smoking traditional instrumentals, "Elzic's Farewell" and "Tam Lin," and support from Jay Lapp on mandolin, and what you have is a solid and, for the most part, inspired album. *** Joshua Bearman
Trent Wagler and the Steel Wheels perform at the Little Grill Collective in Harrisonburg March 30 at 9 p.m.