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Songwriting Shines on Steve Gulley & Tim Stafford’s Upcoming Album, Still Here

January 27, 2021

Steve Gulley, Tim Stafford, bluegrass, Mountain Home Music Company, acoustic, Syntax Creative - imageFrom modern tales of love and loss to stories of hard-working mountaineers, the award-winning team of Steve Gulley and Tim Stafford wove compelling narratives out of historical events and personal, emotional journeys alike. On their upcoming album, Still Here (STREAM/BUY)—the last Gulley recorded before his sudden passing—these narratives shine, illustrating their powerful songwriting. Still Here is now available for Pre-Save/Pre-Order ahead of its March 19, 2021 release.

To those familiar with the bluegrass of the past 30 years, the two names are among the most beloved in the music’s community. The late Steve Gulley, who passed away not long after the album was completed, was a founder and leader of the acclaimed Mountain Heart before starting his own group, Steve Gulley & New Pinnacle, and engaging in high profile guest vocal appearances on a myriad of projects. Tim Stafford is best known as a member of award-winning quintet, Blue Highway and as one of the most influential and frequently-recorded guitarists in and around bluegrass. Together, they earned their first songwriting award in 2008 for Blue Highway’s “Through The Window Of A Train”—an early acknowledgement of the songwriting prowess that scored them dozens of cuts over the years.

For their only joint recording since 2010—filled with echoes not only of bluegrass models like Bill Monroe and Carter Stanley, but of legendary singer-songwriters from folk, rock and country music—the duo were joined by a carefully chosen group that included both relative newcomer Thomas Cassell of Circus No. 9 (mandolin) and award-winning veterans Ron Stewart (fiddle, banjo), bassist Barry Bales (Alison Krauss+Union Station) and harmony singer Dale Ann Bradley. The result is a jewel of a project that testifies both to their powerfully distinctive songwriting and their vocal and instrumental mastery.

Among the highlights are “Still Here,” the first single and a bleak, yet ultimately poignant portrait of a man trapped in a life away from the only place he feels at home; “Long Way Around the Mountain,” the second single, built around a true story handed down in Gulley’s family that offers a vivid portrayal of life in the mines and the violence that periodically flared up in the coal fields as workers sought to organize; “Back When It Was Easy,” a poignant recollection of simpler childhood days, set to a gently swaying waltz; “She Threw Herself Away,” written from a true story related by a social worker friend of Gulley’s; and “There Ain’t No Good Way to Go,” which frames its gently sardonic message in a jaunty excursion into the bluesy side of bluegrass.

In a genre where each new song is measured against the classics of its early years, Steve Gulley and Tim Stafford built an unparalleled reputation for writing that’s infused with respect for and knowledge of the canon, yet brings a fresh, modern ear to every creation. And though the duo’s collaboration came to an untimely and tragic end, each song and each performance on Still Here—whether it’s a story, a meditation on life or a deft character sketch—testifies to the enduring artistic legacy of Steve Gulley and Tim Stafford.

KEVIN SPARKMAN

VP of Communications and Marketing at Syntax Creative.