Artist: Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers
Album: The Long Awaited Album
Label: Rounder Records
Release Date: 09.22.2017
The title is self explanatory. Steve Martin has been playing with the Steep Canyon Rangers, a bluegrass band from North Carolina, for about eight years now. Martin is no stranger to the banjo, picking up his first as a teenager. When he met the Steep Canyon Rangers, it was a match made in Heaven, and the band provided many perfect pairings musically with Martin. This is their first album since the 2011 collaboration, Rare Bird Alert. And without counting Martin’s Love Has Come For You with Edie Brickell in 2013, which features all five members of the Rangers (who then backed Martin and Brickell on tour for the record release), it’s safe to say The Long Awaited Album was indeed very much anticipated.
Both Martin and the SCRs create music that’s deep in storytelling, and on this album, the stories revolve around the topic of love. In typical Martin form, there’s no shortage of laughs blended into this group of talented bluegrass musicians. Listen to his vocals. “Not your average,” “unusual,” “refreshing”, “full of talent” are easy phrases to use when talking about this album.
“Office Supplies” is an instrumental ode to something you find on your desk, a great example of their showmanship, as is the lullaby-like “Always Will” (though judging from the song titles and lyric content, who knows if that’s what the band is even implying).
“Nights in the Lab” sings of Sue and Brad, a couple of people who work in a lab. One pines for the other in a humorous but sweet genre-specific song. Perfect for a pair of scientists who may be looking for an incredibly unique first-dance song. The following track, “Angeline the Barista,” encourages everyone onto the nearest dance floor. There aren’t any vocals on this one, so you can only imagine what was going through the band’s collective head as they put together this tune.
Fast-paced and on point banjo picking, skillful fiddle, and clever songwriting, it will be hard to turn this album off. When’s the next one, guys?