From 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 - the last Gulley recorded before his sudden passing - these narratives shine, illustrating their powerful songwriting. Still Here is now available for pre-order/add/save ahead of its March 19 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.
Pre-order, add or save Still Here HERE.
About Steve Gulley & Tim Stafford
When long-time, prolific writing partners Steve Gulley and Tim Stafford suggested "Still Here" to their new label, Mountain Home Music Company, as the title track and first single from their first recorded duo effort since 2010, no one knew how prescient it would turn out to be. Just weeks after "Still Here" was released, Steve was diagnosed with cancer, and within a few more weeks had passed away, leaving behind a grieving community of friends and colleagues - and a collection of recordings that, thanks to this collaboration, will continue to grow.
Though both men had been veteran songwriters and artists - both in bands and on their own - and Tim Stafford continues an active career, the two men enjoyed special acclaim as one of the most creative and successful songwriting teams in bluegrass music, with scores of recorded co-writes to their credit.
Steve Gulley cut his musical teeth at Kentucky's legendary Renfro Valley Barn Dance and Jamboree, where he came to serve as musical director before launching into full-time touring in the mid-1990s with bluegrass Hall of Famer Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver. By the beginning of the 21st century, he'd moved on to co-founding the award-winning Mountain Heart, followed by Grasstowne, and then, in 2014, his own Steve Gulley & New Pinnacle, which enjoyed a steady presence on bluegrass airplay charts, including four #1 hits. Steve was a sought-after vocalist, who appeared on the acclaimed Keith Whitley project, Sad Songs & Waltzes, as well as on albums by award-winning artists like Dan Tyminski, Ronnie Bowman and Dale Ann Bradley, and a popular radio host with a weekday morning show on Knoxville's renowned WDVX. As owner and operator of Curve Studio in Cumberland Gap, he recorded and produced projects for a growing list of fellow artists. In recognition of his long musical career and help in the development of young and aspiring talent, Steve was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Music from Tennessee's Lincoln Memorial University in 2016.
Tim Stafford performed locally around his native East Tennessee in the late 1980s before joining Alison Krauss & Union Station, with whom he recorded the transformational Grammy recipient, Every Time You Say Goodbye, in 1992. In 1994, he became a co-founder of and guitarist for Blue Highway, one of the music's most beloved and respected bands, which has been nominated for 3 GRAMMYs, won a Dove Award and collected nearly 30 International Bluegrass Music Association awards. He's a two-time IBMA Songwriter of the Year who works with a variety of co-writers, and a widely-recorded studio guitarist who's recorded with artists ranging from Willie Nelson and Jorma Kaukonen to bluegrass Hall of Famers Jesse McReynolds and Larry Sparks. Tim has also served regularly as a producer for others, including for two IBMA award-winning albums; co-authored Still Inside: The Tony Rice Story, a widely-praised authorized biography of renowned guitarist; taught music, American history, Mass Communications and Popular Culture and more at colleges and universities; and sat on the IBMA's Board of Directors in two separate stints, once serving as the Vice-Chair. In 2015, Tim was named a Distinguished Alumnus in the Arts by the East Tennessee State University National Alumni Society.
It's no surprise, then, that when these two accomplished musicians got together, the creative sparks would fly. Indeed, there's something magical about the collaboration - first widely recognized through an IBMA Song of the Year trophy in 2008, when Blue Highway made their "Through The Window Of A Train" the title track of their album, and confirmed in 2010 with the release of their own duo album, Dogwood Winter. Dozens of their songs have been recorded by a wide variety of bluegrass stars, but it wasn't until 2020 that the two reunited as performing partners for Mountain Home Music Company. Yet though the partnership was sadly cut short, Steve Gulley and Tim Stafford are widely acknowledged for their role in building a movement that simultaneously honors bluegrass traditions and leads into the future, establishing them as an indelible influence on our modern roots music world.