Lehigh Valley Live
Published April 27, 2013 by Dustin Schoof
Being on stage with Steve Martin can be daunting.
The biggest challenge, says Steep Canyon Rangers lead vocalist-guitarist Woody Platt, is not keeping up with him musically, which the Steep Canyon Rangers do quite well, but being in the moment.
"Honestly, we're kind of part of the routine and if we crack up, there's nothing wrong with that," Platt says. "One of my favorite things about the show is he just starts improvising, and he laughs and we laugh, and the audience can tell we're having fun."
The Steep Canyon Rangers will join Martin once again for a return performance Sunday night at the State Theatre in Easton. (They last performed in 2010 at the theater.) OnThursday, the folk-bluegrass band will perform a solo show at the Sellersville Theater in Sellersville, Pa.
IF YOU GO
The Steep Canyon Rangers perform with Steve Martin 7 p.m. Sunday at the State Theatre, 453 Northampton St., Easton, and a solo show 8 p.m. Thursday at the Sellersville Theater, 24 W. Temple Ave., Sellersville, Pa.
Tickets cost $60-$100 for State Theatre (seating is limited); $25 for Sellersville Theater.
"It's nice to come back to familiar rooms," Platt says. "The State Theatre's nice."
Platt says working with Martin has been beneficial, not only to them, but to the music as well. "Steve taking the banjo on the road, playing all these shows in front of these people, it's doing a lot for the genre," Platt says. "We're excited about it."
The Rangers first collaborated with Martin during a June 2009 broadcast of "A Prairie Home Companion" and then on the 2011 album "Rare Bird Alert."
Platt says the band was introduced to the actor through Martin's wife, Anne Stringfield, a longtime friend of the group.
"We've known her for a long time, prior to them getting married," Platt says. "She introduced us at a dinner party at their home in North Carolina. We got invited over for an informal jam session and it clicked, it gelled and we took it from there. We stayed in touch and one thing led to another."
The Rangers appear on Martin's latest effort, "Love Has Come For You," his collaboration with singer Edie Brickell. Platt says the band is able to tailor its sets to easily transition from songs with Martin to their own music.
"Honestly, Steve's show is about the banjo and the comedy," Platt says. "Our show is about the original material."
Platt says the mainstream success of bands such as The Avett Brothers, The Lumineers and Mumford & Sons show that bluegrass music is expanding beyond just a niche genre — although he points out there is often some mislabeling.
"For us, we really appreciate and respect all of the branches of music that have reached into mainstream music with bands like Mumford and the Avett Brothers," Platt says. "They have been really great. They're called bluegrass bands, but it's not really bluegrass music, but it does have elements of it."
Platt continues, "There is a cool mainline connection between roots music, folk music and bluegrass music and the most popular music out there. We want to embrace that as much as we can."
In 2011, the band signed to historic Rounder Records. Steep Canyon Rangers' 2012 studio effort, "Nobody Knows You," won the Grammy Award for Best Bluegrass Album.
"When you start a bluegrass band, you don't ever expect to win a Grammy Award," Platt says. "It was a real honor, very humbling. Now we just do it proud and do our job and, honestly, it was very surreal and it was a wonderful day."
Platt says the band is already working on new material.
"We're learning it as we speak," Platt says. "We're sitting around on the bus and working tunes up."