Garden & Gun: Bluegrass Nation

Garden & Gun: Bluegrass NationGarden & Gun magazine’s newest edition, February/March 2011, is titled Bluegrass Nation: 25 Bands Giving Old-Time Music a Whole New Sound. The issue features Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers as the lead story. Other artists included in the issue are: Alison Krauss, Sam Bush, Ralph Stanley, The Punch Brothers, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Darrell Scott, Old Crow Medicine Show, The Avett Brothers (cover photo), and more.

The Unlikely Ambassador of Bluegrass is the lead story about Steve Martin. It’s a lengthy, six page, article that gives ample time to the members of SCR while exploring the opportunities their collaboration with Martin has produced, not only for their band, but for bluegrass music generally.

When the Rangers tour with Martin, it is not just the set list (and catering) that is different. “We’re part of the bluegrass education tour,” jokes Platt, explaining that the Martin audience is often unfamiliar with the music. “Steve gets his fans into shows. These are people who have never heard bluegrass in their whole lives.”

The author gives colorful descriptions of each band member, often comparing them to celebrities. You’ll have to read the article to discover which Ranger is a “”. Here’s an example, the auther offers is this description of fiddle player Nicky Sanders.

Watching Sanders perform is like watching a basket of puppies, an unpredictable mess of pure joy. It is no wonder that bluegrass spoils people for other musical experiences.

But perhaps my favorite line in the entire piece is about Martin’s banjo playing.

Martin’s picking is soft, with a hint of breath beneath the notes, the resultant sound thick and strummy, smacking of clawhammer flavor. If his playing were a potato, it would be one with gravy.

I don’t think I’ve ever head banjo picking described quite like that!

Martin seems to be comfortable with his new assumed position as a bluegrass ambassador, and by all counts he’s doing a fantastic job.

While you’re reading the story, don’t forget to check out the nice photo gallery (35 photos) that accompanies it.