Steve Martin with the Steep Canyon Rangers
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.”