Steve Martin and SCR in Wall St. Journal

Steve Martin checks his tuning at a recent show at The Rubin Museum in New Your City - photo by Ryan Muir, from www.brooklynvegan.comIf it seems like we are writing quite a bit about Steve Martin and his banjo CD, The Crow, quite a bit of late, it’s only because the wider entertainment media is as well. Of course we’ll always cover what’s happening in and around the bluegrass world, and it certainly is a pleasant situation to note how often Martin and his banjo get noticed by the press – even if it’s only partly for his music.

Saturday’s (5/30) edition of The Wall Street Journal contains an interview and concert review of Steve Martin’s May 27 show at the Rubin Museum in New York City with Steep Canyon Rangers.

Martin may have fostered his image as a wild and crazy guy on Saturday Night Live, but he is in fact very serious and thoughtful artist, more given to caution and reflection than impulse and abandon, something that Jim Fusili notes in his WSJ piece:

Supported by the Steep Canyon Rangers, Mr. Martin whipped up rousing bluegrass breakdowns and a cute tune about a boy racing to get to school. But during the best parts of the evening, he offered thoughtful readings of his delicate compositions, which are supple, never morose and rich with unexpected minor chords. By playing with tender restraint, he suggested a counterpoint to his familiar comedic persona. Though his face often was knit with concentration, it also glowed on occasion with tranquility, as if he’d found moments in which he lost himself within his music when expressing its layered emotions.

Unsurprisingly, Martin’s show isn’t afraid to use himself as the butt of a joke, and with enough truth in the bit to ensure that it hits home.

Though he incorporated the banjo into his comedy act as far back as the mid-’60s and originally released five of his compositions that appear on "The Crow" in 1981, on his album "The Steve Martin Brothers," the 70-minute show here was only Mr. Martin’s second full-fledged concert as a banjoist; he played a fund-raiser at Club Nokia in Los Angeles on May 11. He’s considering a tour, but he told me he’d make a decision after the three-show stand here and two sets Saturday night at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. After the sales bump from "Idol," the concerts fall somewhere between a road test and a labor of love; as he told the audience at the Rubin Museum, "If everything sells out . . . I will only lose $12,000."

You can read the full Journal article online.

Bluegrass Today congratulates Steve Martin for the success of his musical endeavors, and hopes to see many more similar efforts. For a man who has had such a powerful impact on comedy, film and stage drama, he deserves kudos for stepping out where his exploits are less well known.

But then, we also knew that his love for the banjo would win out.

Their are links to a few other reviews of the New York shows on the Steep Canyon Rangers web site, including this terrific photo gallery from Ryan Muir.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.