Steve Martin in USA Today

USA Today had a nice feature on Steve Martin and Steep Canyon Rangers in yesterday’s (6/21) edition.

The piece by Jerry Shriver is fairly typical of many such articles that have been published since Steve began touring in support of The Crow, his album of original songs and tunes for banjo. There are the obligatory arrow-through-the-head references, mentions of his film and television success, and an oblique suggestion that maybe Martin isn’t really a top flight player.

In the course of the discussion, however, a question is addressed which I have seen debated many times among bluegrass music fans, to wit, whether having Steve Martin touring as a bluegrass artist is a good thing for the music.

Though Martin acknowledges that his fame probably draws audiences that usually wouldn’t listen to bluegrass — he has played at Bonnaroo and the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival this year — he doesn’t see himself as a savior for the niche genre. “People tell me it has brought attention to bluegrass, but I can’t gauge it.”

Nor is he out to reinvent the form. “I just write what comes out of me,” he says of his songs. “There are two areas I like: bluegrass and Appalachian mountain music. I would like to blend those two.”

One thing that Martin says can be changed is how the public views the banjo.

“Half know what bluegrass is and half don’t,” he says. “But all leave seemingly thrilled with the music.”

Hear, hear!

You can read the full article online.

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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.

  • mtndas

    “In the course of the discussion, however, a question is addressed which I have seen debated many times among bluegrass music fans, to wit, whether having Steve Martin touring as a bluegrass artist is a good thing for the music.”

    I must say that I’ve never been part of, or overheard such a debate (and I consider myself to be quite the bluegrass dork, having conversations often on bluegrass topics). Steve Martin has benefited the genre in the same HUGE way that Jerry Garcia did with Old and in the Way and John McEuen did with the Nitty Dirty Dirt Band. I recall an early image of these three picking banjos together being a vision that inspired me to learn more about the roots of the genre, as well as pick and sing bluegrass. For those who follow bluegrass, it is well known that Steve Martin is a talented banjo player and songwriter who has been playing since high school. For those that don’t follow the genre – an American icon is now seen bringing a tasteful performance to audiences back and forth across the nation.

    What I’m most thrilled about when it comes to conversations and ideas of the future of the genre and modern-day interpretations of the genre is the involvement of the Steep Canyon Rangers. What a top notch group. I’m sure that these fellas have had a lot to do with the success of the Steve Martin tours. I hear a new album is in the works with Steve Martin and SCR. Really looking forward to that one!

  • jamadeacs

    I will have to say that seeing Steve with the Steep Canyon Rangers was a highlight of mine from this year’s Merlefest! Each time I saw Steve M. on TV with a banjo before then…it always seemed he was soooo serious. I got the feeling he was working very hard to be taken seriously. At Merlefest he actually let his hair down some and told a few jokes & played a few comical songs…it was very fun and I think it is great that he is running with his passion! He has a great band that he has
    teamed up with and it is surely bringing them more fans, but he is surely bringing in some new fans out of curiosity.

  • Thasssss right good ole Steve Martin! Talkin’ about our beloved bluegrass, no doubt!