Steve Martin with the Steep Canyon Rangers

The Commercial Appeal - Go Memphis - - Music -

won an­other Grammy and, he is proud to note, picked up six In­ter­na­tional Blues Mu­sic As­so­ci­a­tion nom­i­na­tions.

To sup­port the record, Martin re­cruited the Rangers, them­selves Blues Mu­sic As­so­ci­a­tion nom­i­nees with a half dozen al­bums to their credit .

“It’s just one of those lucky things in life, you know, that you get, ac­ci­den­tally al­most, tied up with a group or a group of peo­ple that works out per­fectly, I think, for both of us,” says Martin.

In March Martin and the Rangers re­leased which Martin de­scribes as “more of a band record” with song­writ­ing con­tri­bu­tions from the other play­ers.

Back on the road to sup­port the new al­bum, the un­fail­ingly good-hu­mored Martin is self-ef­fac­ing, but it’s clear he takes the mu­sic se­ri­ously. Last year, he started the Steve Martin Prize for Ex­cel­lence in Banjo and Blue­grass, a $50,000 honor awarded an­nu­ally to out­stand­ing play­ers as de­ter­mined by a panel that in­cludes Scruggs and Béla Fleck. And he’s very con­scious about pre­sent­ing his own mu­sic in a man­ner that el­e­vates the art form.

“The ban­joes in the ’20s and ’30s were al­ways pre­sented by a co­me­dian, and they were usu­ally sort of dressed in cov­er­alls and wore straw hats,” says Martin, who with the Rangers dresses in smart suits for per­for­mances. “A lot of the blue­grass acts now are dress­ing up, so we’re try­ing to kind of change that per­cep­tion. But, you know, banjo jokes and bag­pipe jokes are like Pol­ish jokes. Now they’re not re­ally po­lit­i­cally cor­rect. So I’m try­ing to change that im­age, try to get it off on an­other in­stru­ment, maybe harps.”

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