By Nick McCabe – Front Row Photo
Saturday night Steve Martin and Edie Brickell accompanied The Steep Canyon Rangers to Lake Tahoe for a sold out show in the Montbleu Showroom for an evening of bluegrass and comedy. Other than a buff guy with a Mohawk wearing kilts, and an old guy wearing flaming tennis shoes, a ‘The Mars Volta’ T-shirt, and a Roger Waters sweatshirt, the crowd was a well dressed mature group of people. I felt kind of silly in my flaming tennis shoes. Prior to the show I saw a set list next to the soundman, so I asked him if I could take a picture of it explaining that it helped to jog my memory while writing my reviews. He said that the list was about two months old, and that Steve works from an iPad next to him and often changes the set list as the show progresses, depending on how things feel.
The show started just after 9:00. I’m not that familiar with bluegrass music so I didn’t recognize the songs, but that didn’t keep me from enjoying the music and the show. Edie came out for the fifth song and stayed until the end. With Steve’s comedic background it would have been disappointing to not get a few Steve Martin comedy bits. As it turned out it was a fun evening of both top notch bluegrass music and witty repartee ala Steve Martin. A large portion of the music was from their current release, Love Has Come For You. Steve wandered back and forth all evening between master banjo player and comedy genius. Edie’s stage presence was that of a soft-spoken, and maybe a bit shy and quite songbird. She has a beautifully soft angelic voice that is delightful to hear. Throw a little bit of cowgirl in there and you’ve got Edie Brickell.
Not to forget, there’s also a bluegrass band of noteworthy credentials in the mix here. The Steep Canyon Rangers have been recording together since 2001 having released ten albums including the current release with Steve and Edie, Love Has Come For You. They have received several awards including Entertainer of the Year in 2011 by the International Bluegrass Music Association. They are Nicky Sanders on fiddle and harmony vocals, Woody Platt on guitar and lead vocals, Charles Humphrey III on upright bass and harmony vocals, Graham Sharp on banjo and harmony vocals, and Mike Guggino on mandolin and harmony vocals.
Steve has been playing banjo for over 50 years, so there was no shortage of skills on his part. My first experience with Steve Martin was when he performed at Lake Tahoe back in his days of wearing a white suit and an arrow through his head. I was under age, but that didn’t slow him down one tiny bit (that’s my second attempt at Martinesque humor). Edie Brickell came into her own back in 1985 when she started playing and recording with the New Bohemians. Edie Brickell and New Bohemians had a huge hit back then with “What I Am”.
Steve and Edie (not to be confused with Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gormé) started working together about a year and a half ago. They had known each other for a long time. During a phone call one day Steve played Edie a song. She started singing to it and came up with lyrics. This is pretty much how they wrote most of the songs on the album. He would send her tunes and she would come up with lyrics to them.
Steve met the Steep Canyon Rangers through his wife, who was very familiar with their music, back in 2006 when she invited them over for dinner, drinks and music. They jammed away on bluegrass tunes and realized that there was something there that they should keep alive.
At one point during their show as part of a comedy interlude Steve said that he didn’t think of The Steep Canyon Rangers as his band, but rather he was their celebrity. This is just my opinion, but that joke (told better by Steve) holds a little bit of truth to it. As talented and driven as The Steep Canyon Rangers are, there’s no doubt in my mind that having a celebrity like Steve Martin embrace you, work with you, and play a part in exposing you to a world of people that otherwise would not hear you is a career boosting plus. I think it’s even giving bluegrass music a shot in the arm. I really enjoyed this show. It was not at all what I am normally drawn to. I had heard them on The Dave Letterman Show about six weeks earlier and really liked what I heard. Sometimes you have to try something new to keep the fire burning. One notable difference with this show was that at no time during the show did the music drowned out the constant ringing in my ears. Heaven!
Thank you Steve…thank you Edie…and thank you Steep Canyon Rangers.
…and the beat goes on.
For a more user friendly slideshow, click here.