Steelism brings Ism to Chickie Wah Wah this weekend, 7/7–7/8

The first time I saw Steelism, the Nashville-based, steel guitar-driven band was in the intimate confines of the Louisiana Music Factory. This weekend, they return to New Orleans with a brand new album, Ism. The group opens on Friday at Chickie Wah Wah for the Lost Bayou Ramblers and on Saturday for the Mulligan Brothers.

Though the group is based in the country music capital of the world and they are defined by the otherworldly tones of the pedal steel guitar, they are hardly country music purists or, for that matter, part of what is heard on today’s country radio.

Guitarist Jeremy Fetzer is from Canton, Ohio, and pedal steel player Spencer Cullum is from Essex, England. The two met while touring the UK with Nashville singer/songwriter Caitlin Rose. They bonded over a shared love for classic film score composers like Ennio Morricone of Twin Peaks fame and 1960s instrumental acts like Booker T. and the M.G.s and the Ventures.

This unlikely combination of players and influences gave birth to instrumental songs that are unlike anything you have ever heard. Though the music grooves, it also percolates over a wide sonic palette. The pedal steel swoops and soars. It is often heard unadulterated, but is also filtered as if through effects that would be more typical of a soundtrack studio under the guidance of Brian Eno.

The band’s debut full-length, 615 to FAME, which was released in September 2014, brought them a new audience and a critical following. Ism was released two weeks ago and has already garnered lots of attention including a glowing profile in Rolling Stone. I expect the next time they play New Orleans it will be in much less intimate space than Chickie Wah Wah.

Show time is 9 PM.

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