The SteelDrivers, ‘The Bartender (Load the Gun)’ [Exclusive Premiere]
Grammy Awards-winning bluegrass five-piece the SteelDrivers are premiering their new song "The Bartender (Load the Gun)" exclusively for readers of The Boot. Press play below to listen to the introspective tune, written from the perspective that comes from working behind a bar.
"The Bartender" kicks off with founding SteelDrivers member Tammy Rogers' slightly ominous fiddling, which sets the tone for the song's exploration of how a bartender might feel about the work he's doing. Look no further than the track's thought-provoking refrain — "Some may call me a sinner, but when it's all said and done / I don't pull the trigger, I just load the gun" — for evidence of the inner turmoil that the protagonist in "The Bartender" feels.
"Maybe he’s conflicted in his role serving people alcohol, maybe he feels responsible -- we leave it up to the listener to decide," Rogers tells The Boot, adding, "But, obviously, the song doesn’t have anything to do with a gun.” Instead, it finds the bartender wrangling over whether or not he's actually helping people with their problems or just making things worse.
Even though the song doesn't have much to do with guns, it's that "I don't pull the trigger, I just load the gun" metaphor that inspired "The Bartender." Co-written by Rogers, Jerry Salley, Liz Hengber and Kellys Collins, that lyric seemed an obvious fit for a SteelDrivers tune.
"When the four of us got together, we decided it would be way cooler to write that line from a bartender's perspective," Rogers says. "[Hengber] immediately thought that should be a SteelDrivers song. She had written enough with me and [former SteelDrivers member] Chris Stapleton through the years to know a good SteelDriver idea when she heard one."
Formerly fronted by Stapleton, the SteelDrivers now have guitarist Kelvin Damrell on lead vocals, but fans of the singer may hear some soulful vocal similarities between the band's former and current frontmen. The band's lineup is rounded out by mandolinist Brent Truitt, banjo player Richard Bailey and bassist Mike Fleming.
On Feb. 7, the SteelDrivers will release their first album since 2015. Titled Bad for You, the 11-track record's release comes 15 years after the band first formed, and is their first to feature Damrell on lead vocals. They're also headed out on an extensive tour in support of the record, which kicks off on Feb. 6 at Bristol, Tenn.'s Paramount Center for the Arts.
Fans can pre-order Bad for You and find out more about the SteelDrivers' upcoming tour dates via the band's official website.
Listen to the SteelDrivers' "The Bartender (Load the Gun)"
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