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Moved to ‘carry the torch’: The Steel Woods band pushes ahead after guitarist dies as album is completed

The Steel Woods will perform on June 12 at The Historic El Rey Theater. (Courtesy of Chris Douglas)

Out of loss came the birth of a album for the country band The Steel Woods.

The band recently released “All of Your Stones.” The album features several songs written by the band’s late guitarist, Jason “Rowdy” Cope, who unexpectedly passed in his sleep in January as the band was completing the album.

“Yeah, well, I mean, there, there’s a lot of Rowdy’s songs,” frontman Wes Bayliss said. “… So there’s a lot of new meaning to some of that. … He was right there till the very end. And then, you know, now that he’s gone, there’s a lot of new meaning to some of it. I’ve said it before, and I still say this was his record. You know, I think all three of these (albums) are, you know, kind of what he wanted to do. … But, this one in particular is real special to his story, and a lot of the ideas, you know, songs were his and we would take off with them from there.”

The decision to move forward as a band was a big decision but not a difficult one for The Steel Woods’ members. The band added guitarist Tyler Powers, who had a long history with Cope. Powers had stepped in for Cope in the past.

“One thing I know is that he would have us go on and continue to play his music and get it out there,” Bayliss said. “And, you know, we put a lot of work into all of it. You know, the last record especially. And I know that if we didn’t carry it home then it would sort of be gone to waste. So, yeah, I think we’re going to continue to carry the torch. And that’s sort of been everybody’s mindset.”

The band recently released the song “Out of the Blue,” an autobiographical track written by Cope.

“That’s one that he brought to the table, and I actually wrote a little bit to it,” Bayliss said. “And I always would bring my ideas and, you know, we’d get together on it and write a song together. And he made it clear that there was one song that he didn’t want to change anything on. It was this one. And it’s exactly how he wanted it. And looking back, I mean, also, I guess now that we recorded it, and everything is said and done, there isn’t anything I would change either. But that’s the one that he was most proud of. And it was really personal to him, and he really wanted to get this one out there.”

The pandemic provided the band ample time to write and record “All of Your Stones.” The band blended various genres, including hard rock, Southern rock, blues and country to create the album’s sound.

“We’re typically touring and, you know, got a lot going on when we’re making a record,” Bayliss said. “And this one, we were able to do it, you know, over and over until we felt we got it right, because there wasn’t really a deadline. … That’s a big thing that we did when we were off, and I ended up spending a lot of my time building a home studio, and we did a good bit of the record here. So yeah, I don’t think without all the time off I probably wouldn’t ever embarked on this journey.”

Band members are ready to get back on the road to promote the album. The tour makes a stop at The Historic El Rey Theater on Saturday, June 12.

“Man, it’s great,” Bayliss said. “We’ve been off for a long time, like a lot of other people, and so we’re glad to get to go back to work. … The shows now are kind of better, like old times. People are maybe even more excited than they were then, you know, when they were flooded with it. They’re somewhat deprived now.”

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