I have been waiting ever since FanFest to see the Steve Martin/Steep Canyon Rangers show. Good news arrived in my feed reader Friday, March 5! A new Martin-Rangers tour begins in Detroit on April 19th! The show is at the Max M Fisher Music Center downtown.
This is not exactly a bluegrass concert, but it will contain my favorite bluegrass instrument, banjo. I can only explain how I feel about banjo music by referring to Carl Pagter, who said something like, “of course I am happy playing banjo, it is a happy instrument.” I wish I could remember exactly what he said, but the message was clear, banjos are happy, and he was happy playing his.
In the same vein, I am happy listening to banjo music, but especially bluegrass. The high lonesome, trouble infused, gospel inspired music commonly heard at bluegrass festivals and concerts hits home for me. By far the majority of music I listen to and enjoy is bluegrass and bluegrass related. I am just one of many people who arrived at bluegrass festivals after hearing 1960’s folk and string band music, and liking it. I never had an instrument, and can barely pick out a tune, but I am drawn to the sound. While we were wandering a festival grounds one evening, my older granddaughter said, “We will walk until we find the music, then we will put our chairs down and listen.” As we approached a jam the younger one, sitting in the stroller I was pushing said, “A BANJO!” I knew exactly how she felt.
Back to the concert. Steve Martin is not known for his banjo playing, but he does know how to play one. His Grammy winning CD, The Crow: New Songs for the Five-String Banjo, was in my computer just a few days after it was released. There is some good singing on it, too. There is some frailing, some picking, some singing, and some fun on the disc. Steve made the rounds, as only a well known entertainer could, The TV shows, all the big newspapers, and so on. Although The Crow was nominated, it did not win a IBMA award, and that is not a surprise, since it is not a CD of bluegrass music. But the Grammy win also did not surprise me, since Martin’s name would be known to the voters, and because I like the album and it’s diversity. It cannot hurt bluegrass to have a well known person playing a little of it. Just my opinion, drop the tomatoes, please.
And then, there are the Steep Canyon Rangers. The Rangers are one of my favorite groups, I love their music, and we own every CD they have released. It is solidly bluegrass, and it is original. These are excellent musicians who prove that it is not necessary to play the same 25 Bill Monroe/Flatt and Scruggs/Ralph Stanley songs, or sit on hay bales to play bluegrass music. Drop the tomatoes, please, and give this a minute.
A couple of summers ago, in order to see the Rangers at The Ark, we stopped off in Ann Arbor while driving Lex to a weekend event. I talked in advance to the parking authority, and they directed me. I still think it was one-time luck that we found a place to park. I will say, the show was wonderful!
Although we last saw the Rangers do a full set almost a year ago at the Dumplin’ Valley JuneFest, we did see a small morsel of the Martin/Ranger combination at the IBMA Awards Show in October. I’m looking forward to more on April 19th! To hold me over, I am haunting YouTube and MySpace, and playing my CD’s.