Back in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme were household names and stars on television and in popular music. Now there’s a new Steve and Edie – Steve Martin and Edie Brickell — teaming up to make music.
Their collaboration, Love Has Come For You, was released today by Rounder Records. It isn’t bluegrass, but it has something of an old time feel. Anyone interested in Steve’s work with the Steep Canyon Rangers, his banjo picking, or the collaborative work of songwriters will find a lot to like here. Anyone who remembers Edie as a new wave pop rocker will be in for a surprise. She passes for a country girl quite nicely, thank you.
The music is stripped down to a spare, sometimes haunting, elegance. In some cases, in fact, it seems like you’re listening to a song demo instead of a finished recording. To me, those songs are the stars of the project, especially When You Get to Asheville, which opens the record, Love Has Come For You, and Yes She Did. If I was in a bluegrass band, or produced one, I’d be in the studio right now giving Asheville a full bluegrass treatment.
Other standouts include Sarah Jane and the Iron Mountain Baby, Sun’s Gonna Shine and Shawnee.
Some of the cuts are more fully produced, with percussion, expressive bass lines from emerging jazz star Esperanza Spalding, guitar work from California soft rock studio stalwart Waddy Wachtel, the two former members of Nickel Creek not named Chris Thile (Sara and Sean Watkins) and, of course, Steve’s pals in the Steeps. Add legendary producer Peter Asher (James Taylor, Linda Ronstadt, Neil Diamond and Bonnie Raitt, among others) and you probably don’t know what to expect.
In fact, after reading the Rounder press release, I thought I’d hear a fully produced, even over-produced project and I was, frankly, prepared to not like it. I’m sure some of you are feeling the same way right now, based on the previous paragraph. But I gave it a chance, and you should, too. Love Has Come For You is about as far from over-produced as you can get and still need a producer.
Steve’s banjo work is pure and straightforward, and many of his melodies are incredibly catchy. Edie’s lyrics are a comfortable blend of old time stories and modern sensibilities. They wrote all 13 songs together, though they were rarely in the same room. Most of the time, in fact, they weren’t even on the same coast. Steve would record a banjo melody and email the digital file. Soon thereafter, usually the next day, Edie would send back a work tape of her lyrics over the banjo part.
I’ve co-written songs at a distance, but in reverse of the way Steve and Edie did it, sending lyrics to have a melody added. Their way sounds difficult, at least until you hear Edie describe it.
“With most of the songs, it was so easy. I’d just hear the tune and there all these images and pictures, and all you had to do was pull the lyrics out of them.”
Steve and Edie are touring in support of the CD and it seems likely they’re continue writing together separately, since both seem overjoyed at the outcome. And, well, because to them it’s easy. And it works.
Editor’s Note: Steve and Edie are appearing on a number of television programs this week in support of the new album. Look for them tonight (4/23) on the Late Show with David Letterman, and tomorrow (4/24) on The View.