Steep Canyon Rangers (from the album Nobody Knows You) - Don’t get so caught up in the collaboration between Steve Martin and Steep Canyon Rangers that you forget the band can soar on its own, just as always. And soar they do on their latest album Nobody Knows You, filled with the lush harmonies and traditional instrumentation that made the group bluegrass royalty.
Mind you, the bandmates are extraordinarily proud of their association with Martin and the successes their collaborations have garnered, including a Grammy Award nomination for “Rare Bird Alert” and The International Bluegrass Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year Award. But the new album shows the band hasn’t lost any of its mojo. The album is full of classic bluegrass tunes that take them back to their traditional sound, thanks in large part to the band’s main writers, bass player Charles R. Humphrey III and banjo player Graham Sharp.
As fans know, the group has always prided itself on not playing songs made famous by such bluegrass giants as Flatts & Scruggs or Bill Monroe. “How can you improve on perfection?”, is their view. They have a point.
Instead, the group weaves its own version of traditional bluegrass by accenting it with bits of country and gospel. Just listen to the title track of the new album that is a glorious, banjo- and harmony-filled romp seasoned with plentiful gospel and country accents. And prepare to love how the fiddle is mixed into the arrangement so it acts as a joyous highlight.
“As I Go” is a bit more old-school bluegrass with a lovely a capella opening that cedes to an up-tempo (some might say raucous) banjo, fiddle and pickin’ tune.Not that the band doesn’t step back occasionally, as it did with the softer, sweeter “Summer Winds.” . Whether with Steve Martin or flying solo, Steep Canyon Rangers serves up the tastiest bluegrass sound around. (by NANCY DUNHAM)