The Steel Wheels

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The Steel Wheels
The Steel Wheels Harrisonburg Virginia.jpg
Park View in Harrisonburg, Virginia
September 4, 2009
Background information
Origin Blue Ridge Mountains, Virginia
Genres Roots, Americana, folk
Instruments Vocals, acoustic guitar, upright bass, mandolin, fiddle
Labels Independent
Members Trent Wagler
Jay Lapp
Brian Dickel
Eric Brubaker

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.[1]

Trent Wagler (guitar) and Brian Dickel (stand-up bass) perform with The Steel Wheels February 6, 2009 at Little Grill Collective in Harrisonburg, Virginia

The Steel Wheels received seven nominations from The Independent Music Awards[2] 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.[3] It also made its way onto the EuroAmericana[4] 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[3]).

The Steel Wheels have appeared at numerous Americana festivals, including The Bristol Rhythm and Roots Festival,[5] 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,[6] Eddie's Attic, the Ark, the Bluebird Café 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[edit]

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.[7] The Michigan-based company Tree Fort Bikes is assisting in the tour.[8]

Musical style[edit]

"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."[9]

— 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."[10]

— Martin Anderson, WNCW Music Director

"Shenandoah Valley's newest, and brightest, songwriting force."[11]

— Blueridge Outdoors Magazine

Honors, awards, and distinctions[edit]


  • Leave Some Things Behind (Big Ring Records, 2015)
  • No More Rain (Independent, 2013)
  • Lay Down, Lay Low (Independent, 2012)
  • The Steel Wheels, Live at Goose Creek (Goose Creek Music, 2011)
  • Red Wing (Independent, 2010)
  • Uncloudy Day (Independent, 2010]
  • Adrienna Valentine (Dojo, 2008)
  • Blue Heaven (Dojo, 2006)
  • Journal of a Barefoot Soldier (Dojo, 2005)


  1. ^ "(2009). ''About the Band''. Retrieved July 15, 2011". The Steel Wheels. Retrieved 2011-07-26. 
  2. ^ "The Independent Music Awards". The Independent Music Awards. Retrieved 2011-07-26. 
  3. ^ a b Americana Music /. "Americana Music Association". Retrieved 2011-07-26. 
  4. ^ "The Euro Americana Chart". November 6, 2007. Retrieved 2011-07-26. 
  5. ^ "The Bristol Rhythm and Roots Festival". Retrieved 2011-07-26. 
  6. ^ "NPR Mountain Stage – Past Performers". Retrieved 2011-07-26. 
  7. ^ thesteelwheels (July 11, 2011). "The SpokeSongs Bike Blog". Retrieved 2011-07-26. 
  8. ^ "Tree Fort Bikes". March 28, 2011. Retrieved 2011-07-26. 
  9. ^ Geil, Gregg (March 2, 2010). "American Roots, Defining Americana Music". Retrieved 2011-07-26. 
  10. ^ "Anderson, Martin. WNCW Music Director". Retrieved 2011-07-26. 
  11. ^ Blueridge Outdoors Magazine
  12. ^ "The Steel Wheels: Americana, Made By Hand" by CLAIRE MARIE BLAUSTEIN, NPR: Song of the Day—May 10, 2012.
  13. ^ Martens, Todd (October 9, 2012). "Stagecoach 2013: Toby Keith, Lady Antebellum top the lineup". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 1, 2012. 

External links[edit]