Steel reins supreme at the Rooster's Wife this Memorial Day weekend, with a co-bill of massive proportions on Sunday, May 26. North Carolina’s only touring sacred steel band, the Allen Boys, will open the show at 6:46 p.m., followed by roots’ festival favorites the Steel Wheels, whose style weaves through Americana and bluegrass music, touching on folk and old time, and blending in the acoustic poetry of the finest singer-songwriters.
Sacred steel guitar uplifts its listeners. As pedal steel guitarist DaShawn Hickman says, “The music we play makes you forget about everything that happened in the day and just have fun.” The modern pedal steel guitar has its roots in Hawaiian lap steel, but African-American House of God churches transformed the playing style in the 1930s. In most other churches, a lead guitar or an organ drives a service. In the House of God service, the pedal steel guitar takes the lead with its singular emotive voice.
Beyond the church, sacred steel has grown popular thanks to the likes of Robert Randolph, the Campbell Brothers and Calvin Cooke. Hickman grew up in the small, granite and wood House of God Church in Mt. Airy. By age 7, he was practicing the steel, inspired by his mother, the church’s player-turned-minister. For more than a decade, Hickman has played with bassist Mitchel Fonville, keyboardist Camron Moore and drummer Ranzy Moore as the Allen Boys. Today, they are North Carolina’s only touring sacred steel band.
Simultaneously familiar and fresh, the Steel Wheels bring a singular energy to every note they play and sparkling craft to each song. This potent combination, paired with a robust tour calendar, have made the veteran band hands-down favorites of fans and peers alike. From their base in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, theys have played the most prestigious festivals, listening rooms and clubs in the world, earning a reputation as one of the top independent bands on the scene today. While 2017’s stunning studio album, “Wild As We Came Here,” was still ringing in the air, the band brought even more light to their concerts with the release of two EPs of live music: “Volume 1: Live at the Station Inn,” and “Volume 2: Live at The Jefferson Theatre.”
Never content to let moss grow under their feet, the Wheels returned to the studio-retreat of Sam Kassirer, producer of “Wild,” to record another studio album that will be released this July at the Red Wing Roots Festival
The Rooster’s Wife is a community arts organization dedicated to bringing the best in live music to the Sandhills. Home base is the listening room of Poplar Knight Spot, 114 Knight St. in downtown Aberdeen, two blocks east of U.S. 1 at the Rent-a-Wreck sign. Children are welcome. Under 12 attend for free. No BYOB, please; a full bar is available featuring Reverie Cocktails, and Southern Pines Brewing. Dinner is available on-site. Tickets for this general admission show are $25 for members, plus N.C. sales tax. For more information, the complete schedule or to purchase tickets on line, visit ticketmesandhills.com or call (910) 944-7502.