The Steel Wheels are an American roots music, Americana group of folk musicians, based in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.
The Steel Wheels are a roots and Americana band, writing and playing music in the closely related but unique styles of blues, bluegrass, old-time music, and fiddle music. Virginia musician Trent Wagler is the lead vocalist and the band's primary songwriter. Jay Lapp (mandolin, guitar, vocals) had been touring in several bands throughout the Midwest when he and Trent met in Harrisonburg, Virginia. The musical partnership formed, and it was the first incarnation of The Steel Wheels. Later, the two were joined by Brian Dickel (upright bass) and Eric Brubaker (fiddle), and The Steel Wheels were born.
The Steel Wheels received seven nominations from The Independent Music Awards in 2010. Their song "Nothing You Can't Lose" (from the album Red Wing) received the highest award of "Best Country Song" in the 10th Annual IMA Awards, and in the Vox Pop Awards. "Working on a Building" also won "Best Gospel Song" in the 10th Annual IMA Vox Pop Awards. Red Wing earned very high marks from critics and received airplay on radio stations across several markets. The album charted for 13 weeks on the Americana Music Association Top 40 radio charts, hitting No. 15. It also made its way onto the EuroAmericana charts, finding its way into the top 10. It was ranked number two across all independent releases charted by the Americana Music Association, and number 70 on the top 100 Americana albums of 2010).
The Steel Wheels have appeared at numerous Americana festivals, including The Bristol Rhythm and Roots Festival, the Kerrville Folk Festival, Floydfest, the Albino Skunk Music Festival, the Smoky Hill River Fest, the Folk Alliance and Appalachian Uprising. Other notable venues they have played include the NPR Mountain Stage, Eddie's Attic, the Ark, the Bluebird Cafe and the Calgary Folk Club. Trent Wagler and Jay Lapp have also played at the 'Ards International Guitar Festival in Ireland, with Peter Rowan.
The "SpokeSongs" Bicycle Tour:
In step with the feel of their music, taking tradition and history and giving it a modern flavor, the The Steel Wheels conduct an annual tour called "SpokeSongs". Different from usual tours, this one is done entirely by bicycle. They average ten shows and travel around 500 miles, and transport all gear on their bikes. The first tour, in 2009, featured The Steel Wheels Duo (Wagler and Lapp) traveling through the Virginia countryside. In 2010, the duo moved the tour to Michigan. And in 2011, all four band members participated in the bicycle tour, again in Michigan. They maintain a blog about the tour on their website. The Michigan-based company Tree Fort Bikes is assisting in the tour.
"Imagine a blend of the passion of the Avett Brothers, the instrumentals of Old Crow Medicine Show, and then sprinkle in the backwoods feel of The Legendary Shack Shakers. In truth, attempting to compare The Steel Wheels to anyone is an injustice, since after one listen you can hear that they stand very well on their own perch."
--John Walker, Americana Roots
"There is purity and power in the sound of this band that few come close to tapping. Tight pickin', passionate energy, and Wagler's voice soars like an eagle. Their new album Red Wing captures the spirit of their great live performances."
--Martin Anderson, WNCW Music Director
"Shenandoah Valley's newest, and brightest, songwriting force."
--Blueridge Outdoors Magazine
Honors, awards, and distinctions:
Their "Rain in the Valley" was chosen as NPR's Song of the Day for May 10, 2012.,
The group appeared opening day at the Stagecoach Festival 2013 in Indio, California.