Sharing Steve :: New Stuff
Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Steve and the Steep Canyon Rangers

Wild 'n' crazy bluegrass: Steep Canyon Rangers, Steve Martin start tour in Brevard

Tony Kiss • published September 6, 2009 12:15 am

BREVARD [N.Carolina] – Asheville's Steep Canyon Rangers have traveled a long road since the old days, when they were playing bluegrass at Jack of the Wood, the Town Pump and the Harvest Festival in Fairview.

This fall, they're on the road with an upcoming CD, “Deep in the Shade,” shows at Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center and other famed venues — and a new partner: Steve Martin. Yes, THAT Steve Martin, the film star who's also an accomplished banjo picker.

The Martin-Rangers tour opens at the sold-out Mountain Song Festival on Saturday on the grounds of Brevard Music Center. Then the gang hits the road for a national tour with the Rangers serving as Martin's band.

“He's a great banjo picker,” said Rangers guitarist and singer Woody Platt. “People know him as a comedian and actor and writer, but he's always played banjo. He has a unique style that fits right into bluegrass music.”

The players are taking this opportunity seriously, Platt said.

“It's not a comedy show,” he said. “Naturally, he's the emcee and does almost all the talking, and that somehow turns into jokes. But the main thing is about the music.”

Martin is happily sharing the spotlight with the Rangers: Platt, Graham Sharp on banjo, Mike Guggino on mandolin, Charles R. Humphrey III on bass and Nicky Sanders on fiddle. The actor and the band met through a Platt family connection.

Hooking up with Martin “is the biggest thing that has happened to us,” Platt said. “It's generated the biggest press that we've had. But we are pretty focused. We have come a long way, and it hasn't been easy or for lack of effort.”

Taking the road with Martin would have been sweet enough, but the band's new CD drops Oct. 6, the same night they're playing New York's legendary Carnegie Hall. “That's one of the top venues that I always wanted to play,” along with the Grand Ole Opry, he said. “The Opry happened, and now Carnegie is about to happen.”

Since forming a decade ago at UNC Chapel Hill, the Rangers have always kept North Carolina in their hearts. One of the band's earliest breaks came in 2002, when they won the bluegrass competition at the Mountain State Fair and opened for Earl Scruggs. Four years ago, Platt and musician John Felty, of the band Jupiter Coyote, launched the Mountain Song Festival, which has grown into a major local event.

The same year, the band took the Emerging Artists of the Year honors at the International Bluegrass Music Awards, giving them a national launching pad. And in 2007, their CD “Lovin' Pretty Women” was nominated for the IBMA's Album of the Year.

The 15-city tour with Martin is sure to be a whirlwind, but halfway through “we have to jump off and do a couple shows that were (previously) booked,” Platt said. “Then we go back at it. That's the way it is with bluegrass.”


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