Album review: STEVE MARTIN & THE STEEP CANYON RANGERS – The Long-Awaited Album


Rounder Records/Decca [Release date 29.09.17]

Steve Martin, not content with being a comedian, actor, playwright and author, has in recent years found a new area of success with his banjo playing. He has released albums previously with the Steep Canyon Rangers and one with Edie Brickell, picking up awards and fans along the way.

The album’s title is a little pun on the fact their last album together was back in 2011, although they did back Martin and Brickell on their live album of 2014. From start to finish this is an album to savour and enjoy, plus there is a lot of banjo playing.

The rousing ‘Santa Fe’ gets things off to a flying start and then we have an early album highlight in the lead single ’Caroline’. Steve Martin said in an interview that “research has shown that there are many, many songs with the title Caroline.  However, this is the only good one.” Status Quo for one may argue the toss on that one, however this song is very good featuring Steve Martin’s vocals. He’s not a great singer but has the comic timing and delivery to carry it off on this tale of love gone wrong. Same applies on ‘Strangest Christmas Yet’, that has some great lines like ‘the children have built a roaring fire, too bad it’s in the drive and with a stolen tyre’.

You don’t have to be bluegrass lover to enjoy the album, as songs like ‘Bad Night’ and ‘Canadian Girl’ are not unlike Chris Hillman or David Crosby, strong both in lyric and melodies.

The light hearted songs sit well with the more serious lyrical songs, plus there are three barnstorming instrumentals in ‘Office Supplies’ (although you could imagine Steve Martin adding some suitably witty lyrics to a tune with this title), ‘Promontory Point’ and ‘Angeline The Barista’. Each one a short, but fine example of the playing of Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers, in particular the fiddle playing of Nicky Sanders.

Listening to the musicianship on here you can see why both Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Riders gain so many awards and praise. The long wait has been worth it and hopefully it won’t be quite so long until these two musical talents record together again. ****

Review by Jason Ritchie

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