Firefighting Banjo Picker, Randy Steele, Releases Bluegrass Single “There's a Part of Me” w/ High Cold Wind

Article Contributed by Dreamspider Pu… | Published on Friday, March 24, 2023

Randy Steele is an award winning banjo pickin' singer/songwriter from Chattanooga, Tennessee and he is excited to independently release a new single, “There’s a Part of Me,” March 24 with his bluegrass band, High Cold Wind. A good old heartache song about growth, “There’s a Part of Me” ’ is about learning to let go of someone that doesn’t serve your best interest anymore.

“The nostalgia is washed with the benefit of hindsight, with the maturity of well wishes, and it’s a prime example of the unique offerings that Steele presents to modern bluegrass,” says Nicholas Edward Williams of American Songcatcher. He continues, “Take the second verse: ‘I remember that Christmas, when you got a neck tattoo, and your momma cried and spent the holidays holed up in her room, she said that you can’t be buried with your family anymore.’ You couldn’t name enough bluegrass songs on one hand that cover that much ground emotionally. Then add the depth of the looming chorus, that Steele’s heart ‘heals a little every day, that I spend away from you.’ It’s the kind of break up song that we all wish were true to our own lives.”

Randy says, “Some of the stories from the song are symbolic, some are reflections from growing up Pentecostal. I really love Faye’s vocal work on this one, she's a blessing.”

Joining Steele in the High Cold Wind is Fiddlin’ Faye Petree, regional fiddle legend of the North Carolina and Georgia music scene; flat pick wizard and member of Americana favorites Strung Like a Horse, Tyler Martelli on acoustic guitar; multiple state, multiple instrumental contest champion and well known teacher John Boulware on mandolin; and Justin Hupp holding it down on the upright bass.  

Randy affirms, “For a while now I’ve been wanting to do more bluegrass. I love bluegrass. It is a great example of simplicity and complexity combined. Every time I hear the simple 1 & 3 low thump of an upright bass contrasted by the 2 & 4 hard chop of a mandolin, I am immediately reminded of a thousand great evenings playing with friends.”

Growing up in Bradley County Tennessee near both the North Georgia and North Carolina borders, Randy was surrounded by music from an early age. His family was heavily involved in the Church of God, with his Papaw being a lifelong Pentecostal preacher and pastor of the largest Church in the organization at one time.

Randy recollects, “Bluegrass was always my Papaw’s favorite and he idolized the players. He was a gospel player and he always looked up to the flatpickers and the finger pickers… I think the biggest influence of all though was my Mom. She is a fantastic singer with a very rich voice. She’s practiced it like an art form her entire life—in her youth she traveled from church to church singing as part of the Henson Family. She taught me how to practice correctly and that has been one of the greatest gifts. It has proven useful time and time again within music and just in life in general.”

In his teens in the mid-90s, Steele discovered the budding Jamband scene, who  tagged along with his Uncle, Paul Henson, who toured and recorded with the Aquarium Rescue Unit. His early musical inspirations ranged from Townes Van Zandt, Garcia/Hunter, John Prine, and Robert Earl Keen. Lyric driven music stories were his early favorites and remain his primary songwriting medium. Randy went on to tour some with a band and studied Jazz Guitar at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville for a bit. Then Randy stopped playing music for a while and became a firefighter with the Chattanooga Fire Department and got married and settled down. He says, “I still wrote songs constantly but I figured my music days were mostly behind me. In the firehouse, I needed something to help me decompress and then I found the banjo…”

To pass the time at the fire station, Randy began practicing Scruggs style banjo and, a few years later in 2008, began performing with Slim Pickins Bluegrass Band, along with Boulware and Hupp. They went on to spend a month living in Belgium and played shows all over Europe, eventually though between jobs and family obligations, the band settled into playing a few select shows in the Chattanooga area each year.

In 2016 Steele released a solo album, Songs from the Suck, which was recorded at the legendary FAME studios in Muscle Shoals Alabama and finished at The Soundry Studios in Soddy Daisy, Tennessee. He began to do some light touring solo and with a trio. Two years later he released an EP, Moccasin Bender, both of these were kind of on the bluegrass side of Americana.

In 2018 Steele won an Independent Music Award for Bluegrass 'Song of the Year' for "Mobile Soon" (and was nominated for Bluegrass Album of the Year), and was selected as a finalist in the Newsong Music LEAF Songwriting Competition.

Steele then spent 2019 hard on the road clocking in 90 shows in 17 states in 47 cities before being forced off the road by the 2020 Coronavirus Pandemic. In 2019 Captain Randy Steele was also named Fire Department Officer of the Year and was awarded a Medal of Valor, as he was recognized for his outstanding efforts at emergencies in 2018.

“As it all went back to gigs and regular life after the pandemic, I really wanted to get back into some traditional bluegrass. I had been touring as a trio and decided to try to start a bluegrass band based on that touring outfit, and thus High Cold Wind was born.”

High Cold Wind was formed in 2022 as a support band for Steele’s singer/songwriter touring and they continued to move through multiple markets—with Atlanta, Asheville, Charleston SC, Nashville, and a few other cities seeing multiple repeat performances by either Randy Steele solo or RS & the High Cold Wind.  After a few shows, they found themselves invited to multiple festivals throughout the Southeast US with acts like Greensky Bluegrass, Yonder Mountain String Band, Town Mountain, Larry Keel, Russell Moore and IIIrd Tyme Out, The Kody Norris Show, Nick Lutsko, and the Lonesome River Band.

The band entered the studio in winter 2022/2023 and recorded the High Cold Wind EP with multiple single releases due out in 2023 beginning with “There’s a Part of Me.” Self-produced, Randy’s new music was recorded and engineered at The Soundry Studios in Soddy-Daisy, TN by Brett Nolan and mastered by Adam Brown.

2023 is looking great with multiple spring and summer mini tours scheduled throughout the southeast and multiple festival bookings for full band shows.

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