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Album Review

From the earliest days of his comedy career, Steve Martin has incorporated the banjo into various aspects of his act, and fellow banjo players have spoken with reverence of his skills for decades. But in recent years he has put a renewed focus on the instrument, and he won a Grammy for his album The Crow in 2010. Rare Bird Alert came along a year later, and it's a full-fledged country/bluegrass album consisting entirely of Martin originals and recorded in collaboration with the Steep Canyon Rangers. Some of the songs are comedic: the hilarious faux-gospel harmony number "Atheists Don't Have No Songs" is an album highlight despite its lack of an interesting melody, and "Women Like to Slow Dance" is both a wry reflection on gender differences and a straight-up bluegrass barnburner. "Jubilation Day" is one of the funnier kiss-off songs ever recorded ("Let's always remember the good times/Like when you were out of town"), and there's even a surprisingly straight version of Martin's breakout novelty hit from the 1970s, "King Tut." But other tracks are sweet and tender, such as the wonderful "You" (written for Martin's wife) and the elegantly lovely "The Great Remember." And there are several songs on which elegance, energy, and boundary-pushing creativity coexist joyfully — notably the gorgeous "More Bad Weather on the Way" (on which Martin plays very expert clawhammer banjo) and the brilliant instrumental "Northern Island," which features a startlingly complex chord progression for a bluegrass number. Whether your primary interest is in the comedy or the music, this is a solidly enjoyable album.

Customer Reviews

Great album

I'm not really a fan of country music, but for some reason, I seem to like bluegrass. This is a solid album with great music, tight harmonies, and wonderful lyrics.

Eastern Kentucky

I have no idea why this album hasn't received more attention. The Steep Canyon Rangers are a fantastic band in their own right, and they pull off Martin's songs beautifully. These guys make the banjo/mandolin/fiddle/bass sound cool again.


All I can say is GREAT!


Formed: 1999 in Chapel Hill, NC

Genre: Country

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Although they received a boost in popularity when actor/banjo player Steve Martin joined their ranks in 2009, the Steep Canyon Rangers had already earned an audience with their progressive bluegrass sound. Graham Sharp (banjo, harmony vocals) met future bandmates Woody Platt (guitar, lead vocals) and Charles R. Humphrey III (bass, harmony vocals) in 1999, while all three were attending the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Drawn together by their love of acoustic music, they began playing...
Full Bio
Rare Bird Alert, Steep Canyon Rangers
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Customer Ratings