Steep Canyon Rangers
|STEEP CANYON RANGERS
Nobody Knows You is the Steep Canyon Rangers’ first record for Rounder, though it’s their second if you count their co-billed, 2012 Grammy-nominated Rare Bird Alert with recording and touring partner Steve Martin. Unquestionably, the Steep Canyon Rangers have come a long way from their promising beginnings as a band of college friends at UNC-Chapel Hill in 2000 to becoming the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Emerging Artist in 2006 to Entertainers of the Year with Steve Martin at IBMA in 2011. At this point, this band has played before more people, over the past two years, than any other bluegrass band - from major festivals like Bonnaroo, New Orleans Jazz Fest, and Merle Fest, to the White House for the 4th of July celebration this past year!
No wonder not only the bluegrass world but all fans of great acoustic music, with or without banjo, are starting to pick up on the Steep Canyon Rangers. Not only has the band been taking the performance world by storm but with the new record, they have delivered their strongest set of original songs to date, exciting, powerful, intelligent wordplay, with only one cover, Tim Hardin's “Reputation.”
Many fans have observed that this is a band that has it all: a great live show, songwriting that is not imitative, and the instrumental virtuosity that is pretty much essential if you are going to be taken seriously in the bluegrass community. While there are a couple of special instrumental guests on the new album, the band itself is both the core and the overall substance of Nobody Knows You. Woody Platt has never sounded better, a solid and evocative guitar-player, with Mike Guggino on mandolin, Graham Sharp on banjo, and Charles Humphrey III on bass, all setting the tone on each of their instruments, with taste and adding something all their own. Nicky Sanders is one of the finest fiddle-players in bluegrass today, about whom we'll all be hearing more in years to come.
Whether it bespeaks a strong sense of irony or simply a terrific sense of humor and self-confidence, Nobody Knows You may have been true once upon a time about this band, but certainly is no longer the case. Truisms matter simply because they are true, and Steve Martin's endorsement of his touring mates as musicians who “continue to explore both the new and old styles of bluegrass and bring a fresh energy to the traditions of American music,” bluegrass in its broadest and best sense is a highly perceptive truism.
While the Steep Canyon Rangers have been spending much time on the road, they have not allowed the pressure to perform night-after-night to stifle their creativity as songwriters, as their new record, Nobody Knows You, sumptuously demonstrates. Whether on stage or on record, Woody Platt is one of the strongest lead singers anywhere, and the band's harmonies complement his presence and take things one step further.
The Steep Canyon Rangers have just begun to make their mark in the world of great acoustic music, whether on the road with Steve Martin, playing a jam band festival on their own, or opening the ears of traditional bluegrass fans to new sounds and to songs with a new sensibility. While it is perhaps another truism that Nobody Knows You, as the album title states, Larry Nager in his liner notes has said it for us all: this is one band you're going to want to know better! This is the Steep Canyon Rangers, doing their own brand of bluegrass music in their own way.
Steep Canyon Rangers - "Long Shot":
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