The banjo is no gag for Steve Martin
October 4, 2013
Steve Martin is best known as a comedian, but, if he continues at his current pace, he might just take on the role of bluegrass ambassador.
Martin has included banjo in his comedy act for decades. Recognition of his pick work revved up in 2009 with the release of "The Crow: New Songs for the Five-String Banjo" on Rounder Records. "Rare Bird Alert," with North Carolina's Steep Canyon Rangers, followed in 2011 and brought national recognition. The album was nominated for a Grammy and kicked off a collaboration that includes regular tours across the country.
Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers perform at MontBleu Resort Casino & Spa, at Lake Tahoe's South Shore, Saturday. Tickets to the show are a hot commodity and are no longer available online.
After meeting at a party, Martin invited the Steep Canyon Rangers to tour and record with him, according to a biography of the band on their website.
"They average about 50 dates a year together, touring as Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers, and most recently with the addition of special guest Edie Brickell," according to the biography. "What has emerged is a real collaboration of seven consummate musicians—creating music that they are passionate about, and blending it with humor to form a sophisticated show."
Brickell is a Texas-born musician who has played professionally since the 1980s and gain fame with the New Bohemians before reinvigorating her solo career in 2003. Martin and Brickell, who is also featured in Saturday's show, released "Love Has Come for You" in April.
"On 'Love Has Come for You,' Martin's third album for Rounder Records, Brickell's lyrics bring those gracefully easy melodies to life, stretching them into likewise graceful songs with a sparse, whimsical, and artfully open-aired narrative style," wrote Steve Leggett about the album on http://www.allmusic.com. "Her singing sounds relaxed and unpressured, just like Martin's easy-rolling banjo lines, and the two of them together are no novelty act.
"This is a sweet-sounding album with subtle depths, not really bluegrass, but a precisely gentle folk album that grows more graceful and revealing with each listen."
As for the Steep Canyon Rangers, the band released it's latest album, "Tell the Ones I Love," this year.
The album finds the band in a unique situation, according to their website.
"It took a lot of work for us to nose our way into the bluegrass world and become a de facto representative," said banjo player Graham Sharp, "and we think it's a real responsibility." With the new record, "we can be a bridge between the bluegrass crowd and a wider audience that may not be die-hard bluegrass fans," Sharp said.