Thursday, February 20, 2014

Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers - Rare Bird Alert

This 2011 follow up to The Crow is another fun banjo-centric bluegrass album from comedian/actor Steve Martin, here backed by his touring band, the Steep Canyon Rangers, along with guests Paul McCartney and the Dixie Chicks.

As before, there are instrumental tracks alternating with vocals numbers, here with a concentration on multiple harmonies - all very well done. I really dig Martin's fine banjo picking on numbers like "Northern Island", which also features some nice fiddle and mandolin. The Rangers provide some superior backup throughout - unfortunately, the library copy that I have does not have any information on the group, but everyone does a great job.

Again, Martin's comedian side comes through on numbers like "Jubilation Day", the live "Atheists Don't Have No Songs" (truly humorous with fantastic harmonies) and a live reprise of his 70's hit "King Tut"! "More Bad Weather on the Way" is a bit more traditional with more cool vocal harmonies around the pickin' and bowin', while the Dixie Chicks make their presence known on the quiet ballad "You". Their vocals as fantastic, though the song itself is not a stand-out. "The Great Remember" is another ballad, an instrumental this time, but "Women Like to Slow Dance" is a terrific, upbeat how-down, where everyone gets to show off their chops again, as they do in the instro "Hide Behind a Rock".

I think that The Crow might be a little more consistent, but this CD is certainly worthwhile as well, with plenty of cool moments. Hope he will bring his show to Vegas sometime!