Monday, July 23, 2012

There's just something about Bluegrass

I'm not quite sure what it is about Bluegrass that speaks to my soul, but I've always loved the sound of a bunch of percussive stringed instruments (usually guitar, banjo, mandolin, stringed bass and fiddle), not to mention the close vocal harmonies often found in the music that originates in the Southern States. There's none of that in my Russian German family background, to be sure. Maybe I like it so much because it's honest, unplugged music that gets feet thumping and hearts pumping. I can come up with no real explanation for my love of it, but somewhere along the line, I simply fell in love with old-style music, from Cape Breton-style fiddle reels and jigs to V'la l'Bon Vent (a great French Canadian tongue twister), and from The Cotton Patch Gospel to the O Brother, Where Art Thou soundtrack.

Last night was another great live musical experience (two in one week has to be my record!) as my parents, sisters and I attended a concert featuring Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers. I first ran into them when my friend Charleen sent me a video which I immediately posted. (You can see The Atheist Song here). What it won't show you is how talented each of the fellows is with their instruments. I certainly didn't realize that, besides being a funny guy, Steve Martin is such a great banjo player!

The last piece of the show alone was worth the price of admission. The group played Auden's Train, which reminded me of the fiddle classic, The Orange Blossom Special -- with a twist. Nicky Sanders is The Steep Canyon Rangers' incredible fiddle player who somehow managed to evoke a train chugging along, interspersed with all sorts of classical pieces, and even O Canada at one point. Steve Martin is good, but for me, Nicky Sanders stole the show. Even so, I'm paying both of them homage today by posting two videos -- the first, a fun banjo song played and set to video by Steve Martin (who writes his own banjo music), and the second, a slightly shaky home video version of The Orange Blossom Special, featuring Nicky's amazing fiddle. If you can identify and name the classical pieces he slides in there, I'd love to know what they are. It took me a while to figure out that piece from the Beach Boys' Good Vibrations... enjoy! We certainly did!


  1. Bluegrass is also one of my very favorites! All day I could listen. I nearly wore out the O Brother soundtrack when it was first released. That got me hooked on Union Station for sure. I discovered Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers some bit ago and just fell in love! Who knew that Mr Martin had that in him. Such an amazing group. I wish I could find them around here live. Good for fun!

    1. Our planets align again! I'm a Union Station fan, too, and Alison Krause and Gillian Welch, and... I forgot to tell you that I liked that video you posted of Malcolm Ford and friends. Like a Cape Breton kitchen party, only in the living room... and with decided drawls.

    2. YEEEESSSS! Boy howdy Do I love those guys! I am going to go put on the Rollers now....

  2. I've heard Steve Martin is excellent! I'm happy you got to go.

    I don't mind Bluegrass, I like it's clear, honest sound and always enjoy it when I hear it.

  3. It was a great concert... it's rare to go wrong with live music. And Steve Martin is just a funny guy!


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