For their first Mountain Home Music Company single, ace songwriting colleagues Steve Gulley and Tim Stafford have chosen “Still Here,” a bleak yet ultimately poignant portrait of a man trapped in a life away from the only place he feels at home.
“I love the money but I hate this town/Every day I’m here just wears me down,” Gulley sings in weary tones, as the song shifts from its hushed, moody opening feel into the solid bluegrass rhythms of the first chorus and its downcast conclusion: “Costs me more than this place will ever give me/But here I am...still here.”
With a searing fiddle solo by ace studio musician Ron Stewart (who also contributes banjo) that perfectly captures the narrator’s mingled bitterness and resignation over Stafford’s muscular, mournful guitar rhythms, bassist Barry Bales’ steady pulse and the brisk groove of mandolinist Thomas Cassell (Circus No.9), “Still Here” offers a polished, musically sophisticated yet viscerally emotional reading that serves to reintroduce the duo in their first joint project in a decade. Both men are renowned performers in their own rights — Gulley as an esteemed singer and hitmaker with his own Steve Gulley & New Pinnacle, Stafford as a founding member of Blue Highway and an influential guitarist — but have only one previous recording together to their credit, 2010’s Dogwood Winter.
"This is one man's regret at living so long somewhere he didn't want to be,” says Stafford of “Still Here.” “And despite everything he's endured, including his homesickness for Appalachia. But I think it can be generalized to anyone who feels out of place.”
“I think a lot of people can relate to the story in the song,” adds Gulley. “Most all of us have had times when we've felt out of place and missed home. I know I have.”
And circling back to the title, Stafford concludes, “Despite it all, he's still here."
Listen to “Still Here” HERE.
About Steve Gulley & Tim Stafford
Though they’re each veteran songwriters and artists—both in bands and on their own—Steve Gulley and Tim Stafford have enjoyed special acclaim as one of the most creative and successful songwriting teams in bluegrass music, with scores of recorded co-writes to their credit.
Steve Gulley cut his musical teeth at Kentucky’s legendary Renfro Valley Barn Dance and Jamboree, where he came to serve as musical director before launching into full-time touring in the mid-1990s with bluegrass Hall of Famer Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver. By the beginning of the 21st century, he’d moved on to co-founding the award-winning Mountain Heart, followed by Grasstowne, and then, in 2014, his own Steve Gulley & New Pinnacle, which has enjoyed a steady presence on bluegrass airplay charts, including four #1 hits. Steve is a sought-after vocalist, who appeared on the acclaimed Keith Whitley project, Sad Songs & Waltzes, as well as on albums by award-winning artists like Dan Tyminski, Ronnie Bowman and Dale Ann Bradley, and a popular radio host with a weekday morning show on Knoxville’s renowned WDVX. As owner and operator of Curve Studio in Cumberland Gap, he’s recorded and produced projects for a growing list of fellow artists. In recognition of his long musical career and help in the development of young and aspiring talent, Steve was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Music from Tennessee’s Lincoln Memorial University in 2016.
Tim Stafford performed locally around his native East Tennessee in the late 1980s before joining Alison Krauss & Union Station, with whom he recorded the transformational Grammy recipient, Every Time You Say Goodbye, in 1992. In 1994, he became a co-founder of and guitarist for Blue Highway, one of the music’s most beloved and respected bands, which has been nominated for 3 GRAMMYs, won a Dove Award and collected nearly 30 International Bluegrass Music Association awards. He’s a two-time IBMA Songwriter of the Year who works with a variety of co-writers, and a widely-recorded studio guitarist who’s recorded with artists ranging from Willie Nelson and Jorma Kaukonen to bluegrass Hall of Famers Jesse McReynolds and Larry Sparks. Tim has also served regularly as a producer for others, including for two IBMA award-winning albums; co-authored Still Inside: The Tony Rice Story, a widely-praised authorized biography of renowned guitarist; taught music, American history, Mass Communications and Popular Culture and more at colleges and universities; and sat on the IBMA’s Board of Directors in two separate stints, once serving as the Vice-Chair. In 2015, Tim was named a Distinguished Alumnus in the Arts by the East Tennessee State University National Alumni Society.
It’s no surprise, then, that when these two accomplished musicians get together, the creative sparks fly. Indeed, there’s something magical about the collaboration — first widely recognized through an IBMA Song of the Year trophy in 2008, when Blue Highway made their “Through The Window Of A Train” the title track of their album, and confirmed in 2010 with the release of their own duo album, Dogwood Winter. Yet though dozens of their songs have been recorded by a wide variety of bluegrass stars, it wasn’t until 2020 that the two reunited as performing partners for Mountain Home Music Company. Now, as they move forward to not just write, but record together, Steve Gulley and Tim Stafford have placed themselves securely in the forefront of a movement that simultaneously honors bluegrass traditions and leads into the future, establishing them as an indelible influence on our modern roots music world.