I first realized Steve Martin was an accomplished banjo player and musician (beyond his Dr. Demento tune King Tut) during my brief stint as a worker at Barnes and Noble. The Crow: New Songs for the 5 String Banjo was one of the few CDs that we were forced to listen to that I actually enjoyed. I can't recall if there was any comedy on it, but one thing was clear: Steve Martin is a banjo beast.
Truth be told, in all of my recent folk explorations I forgot about the pick'n ways of SteveMartin. Then those fine fellows at Rolling Stone decided to post a video/blog of a song called "Me and Paul Revere." Martin is joined by a band called the Steep Canyon Rangers in a loft-like area surrounded by people. Please watch this video.
Since I have bought the single of the aforementioned song, then the album Rare Bird Alert and now The Crow is on my list as well. Some of the songs on Rare Bird Alert are clearly meant to poke fun, but maybe that is part of the appeal. The album takes me all over the place. Makes me laugh, makes me bob my head, makes me sing along.
What can I say?
There is something so real and pure about folk music and Steve Martin shreds on that fucking banjo. I know this music is probably more bluegrass than folk, but I'm not really sure where those lines are drawn and Wikipedia is surprisingly useless on the subject. In my ignorance I have decided to view folk as the broad category and everything else is just a subset of the genre. I think part of the draw to this music is honestly just the real instruments. This is music that can be played anywhere at any time, all you need are the musicians and their instruments. No electronic tom-foolery needed, no vocoders, no synths, no PHAT BEATZ.
It is just music that is in our blood. I tend to think of things in terms of "There is a reason this is still around." That's how I rationalize most of my musical ventures, and this is no exception. I feel transported when I listen to Rare Bird Alert especially, as though I could go outside and see dirt roads. The music is simply real and full of human emotion. When you hear those strings being picked, you can feel and hear the human element.
SIDE NOTE: How much would it suck to be the Steep Canyon Rangers actual banjo player?
ANSWER: Very much.