STEEP CANYON RANGERS, “Deep in the Shade,” Rebel. 12 tracks.

These days, the North Carolina-based Steep Canyon Rangers is better known as Steve Martin’s backing band. Last month, the group launched a 15-city tour with Martin that included an appearance on ABC’s “The View.”

But the Rangers are far more than Martin’s backing band.

The 10-year-old group that formed after a stairwell jam session at the University of North Carolina was named emerging artist of the year by the International Bluegrass Music Association in 2006 and its last album — “Lovin’ Pretty Women” — was nominated for album of the year in 2008.

You don’t have to wonder if the music is really bluegrass when the Rangers take the stage.

The sound is definitely bluegrass, but don’t expect to recognize any of the songs. This is not a cover band, so don’t wait for the old standards.

Members Graham Sharp, Charles R. Humprhey III and Nicky Sanders wrote or co-wrote 10 of the 12 songs.

There’s a beautiful a capella version of Huddie “Lead Belly” Ledbetter’s “Sylvie” and an uptempo version of Merle Haggard’s “I Must Be Somebody Else You’ve Known.” All the rest are band originals.

As the album’s publicity material says, “The age-old theme of heartbreak has never sounded as upbeat as when accompanied by driving banjo, sawing fiddle and ringing mandolin.”

“Have Mercy” sees a couple ending an affair to keep from hurting others. “I Thought That She Loved Me” is the classic tale of a city girl who did a country boy wrong. “Turn Up The Bottle” finds a man ready for a change after a hard life. And “There Ain’t No Easy Street” is an uptempo song about struggling to survive on the hard side of town in today’s economy.

Another strong album by a good band.

Can’t find it in stores? Try http://www.rebelrecords.com

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