Hannah Wicklund & The Steppin Stones are fronted by a 21-year-old powerhouse guitarist, vocalist and songwriter. The South Carolina-born (and now East Nashville-based) artist who formed the band as an eight-year-old has developed a powerful and sublime synthesis of skills and makes it clear that the future is hers to conquer.
On their new (and third) self-titled album, the band--who’ve played over 2,000 shows including notable festival appearances--digs in deep, hits hard, and crushes it. Hannah Wicklund & The Steppin Stones (available 1/26/18 on her Strawberry Moon imprint) is an aural kaleidoscope of blazing guitars and searing vocals, all of which establish Wicklund as a triple-threat player, singer and writer in the fashion of Susan Tedeschi and the Pretenders’ Chrissie Hynde.
The album’s producer, Sadler Vaden, who’s also guitarist with Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit, says: “Once we started writing some songs, I saw that she had a real, raw talent. I was inspired to work with her by her love of classic rock music and blues. I wanted to honor that in making this album, but also add a little modern edge to it.”
On the 10-track album, Wicklund taps into the fury of loneliness (“Ghost”). She resurrects specters of Hendrix and Joplin (“Looking Glass”) as well as power ballad intensity (“Strawberry Moon”). Then, just as she’s supercharged you with about as much raw energy as you can channel, she lets you down gently with the acoustic intimacy of “Shadow Boxes”—but even here, her singing achieves an intensity that most artists can only dream of rivaling. Her music stands on a bedrock of razor-edged, old-school rock ’n’ roll reanimated by a new generation’s urgency.
That impression is doubly emphasized in the video for the album’s first single, “Bomb Through The Breeze,” a hurricane of swirling color interspersed with spare shots of Wicklund and her band in action, with black bunnies and slithering snakes adding an eerie visual complement.
“Sadler and I wrote this song [“Bomb Through the Breeze”] as a response to feeling backed into a corner by someone who doesn't get the hint,” says Wicklund. “This is the type of song to hopefully inspire some self-confidence when it comes to standing up for yourself and others. Unfortunately, when someone's volume is on loud for so long, the only way to get their attention is to do something even louder.”