Folk/Blue­grass

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - MUSIC REVIEWS -

This col­lec­tion is at its best when Martin lets his hu­mour re­tire and al­lows his for­mi­da­ble five-string banjo skills find full flight

WIL­LIE WAT­SON Folksinger Vol 2 ★★★★ Acony

Pro­ducer David Rawl­ings nailed it on what makes Old Crow founder Wil­lie Wat­son so spe­cial: “Wil­lie is the only one of his gen­er­a­tion who can make me for­get th­ese songs were ever sung be­fore.” The Amer­i­can folk canon has been well aired by the great and the or­di­nary, but Wat­son’s take on songs made fa­mous by the likes of the Rev Gary Davis, Lead­belly and Furry Lewis are marked by a de­ter­mi­na­tion to “live” the song. “I’m not try­ing to be a purist,” he says. “There’s so much beauty in this old mu­sic and it af­fects me on a deep level.”

Folksinger Vol 2 builds on the bare bones of 2014’s Vol 1 with the mel­liflu­ous gospel of Fair­field Four help­ing out on three tracks, in­clud­ing the tasty opener, Sam­son and Delilah. Still, es­sen­tially it re­mains his voice, gui­tar/banjo and th­ese in­deli­ble songs. Once again less is more. williewat­son.com JOE BREEN

STEVE MARTIN AND THE STEEP CANYON RANGERS The Long Awaited Al­bum ★★★ Rounder/Decca

Steve Martin writes and plays banjo with the flu­ency of a moun­tain boy. He blithely skips from Grammy-win­ning Broadway pro­duc­tions (Bright Star with Edie Brick­ell) to classy blue­grass col­lab­o­ra­tions such as this one, with his “trav­el­ling circus”, The Steep Canyon Rangers, a col­lab­o­ra­tion that kicked off with their 2010 al­bum, The

Crow. Mu­si­cally, this self-con­sciously ti­tled col­lec­tion is at its best when Martin lets his mar­quee-scale hu­mour re­tire to the back and al­lows his for­mi­da­ble five-string banjo skills find full flight. The Rangers are ideal com­padres: highly ac­com­plished, with fid­dle, man­dolin and bass curl­ing around the songs like cats at a bowl of cream, par­tic­u­larly on Santa Fe. The col­lec­tion begs for a live per­for­mance. On its own though, the hu­mour tends to sag on re­peated ex­po­sure. steve­martin.com SIOBHÁN LONG

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