STEVE MARTIN & THE STEEP CANYON RANGERS, “Rare Bird Alert,” Rounder. 13 tracks
Bluegrass music is hip these days.
Or at least the bluegrass music tent is now large enough to cover some very hip music.
For proof, look no further than Steve Martin’s second Rounder album with the Steep Canyon Rangers.
The first, 2009’s “The Crow: New Songs for the Five-String Banjo,” won a Grammy. And “Rare Bird Alert” probably will as well.
Martin wrote 11 of the songs and co-wrote the other two with the Rangers.
Did you ever, in your wildest dreams, think you’d ever hear Paul McCartney on a bluegrass album?
The former Beatle sings lead on Martin’s “Best Love,” which isn’t your father’s bluegrass and probably doesn’t fit under most fans’ definition either. But still, it’s Paul McCartney on a bluegrass album.
Of course, it’s not the first time McCartney has done bluegrass. On MTV’s “Unplugged” series in 1991, he performed “Blue Moon of Kentucky” in both bluegrass and rockabilly styles.
The Dixie Chicks handle the vocal duties on the ballad, “You.”
Although the Chicks are now a country band, an earlier version of the group — Emily Erwin on banjo, Robin Lynn Macy on guitar, Martie Erwin on fiddle and Laura Lynch on bass — showcased for the International Bluegrass Music Association in 1991 as a bluegrass band.
The highlights of the album though are a grassed-up live version of Martin’s 1978 hit, “King Tut,” which went to No. 17 on the Billboard singles chart that year, and “Atheists Don’t Have No Songs,” a hilarious a capella gospel-style song that concludes that “atheists just have the blues…but they do have Sundays free.”
The title cut is a bouncy instrumental that would be right at home in a movie square-dancing scene.
“Yellow-Backed Fly” is a song about trying to catch a fish named Jim.
“Go Away, Stop, Turn Around, Come Back” is a playful song about a man who can’t make up his mind about a relationship.
“Jubilation Day” is a humorous look at a break-up.
“The Great Remember (For Nancy),” written for the late Nancy Short, begins as a slow reflective instrumental that builds in intensity as it progresses.
“Women Like To Slow Dance” is a blazing-fast song that says if you want romance, learn to slow dance.
Martin may be primarily known as an actor and comedian, but he’s a fine musician as well.
Can’t find it in stores? Try www.SteveMartin.com.