Wednesday, February 18, 2009

And Then Some More Banjo

I've wanted to see the Steep Canyon Rangers for some time now, and after having interviewed banjo player Graham Sharpe on The Moonshine Show Sunday morning, I was pleased that Sarah and I were able to catch them that night at Joe's Pub in a solo show.

They came out on stage to play, not letting up for three or four songs, just rolling them one off of the other, as bluegrass bands are sometimes known to do. The band's choreography was superior, coming in on the vocal mic for duets and trio and quartet gang singing. Mike Guggino and Woody Platt's duets were powerful forces in and of themselves -- they sounded like a trio or quartet. But when the other band members joined in for the gospel songs "Be Still Moses" and "I Can't Sit Down," the harmonies pushed the sound out another few feet into the audience.

Nicky Sanders shredded on fiddle all night long. On one tune, I watched the horsehair on that bow burn through one after another. On "Knob Creek," Graham Sharpe took this terrific solo using harmonic notes up and down the banjo neck. And Mike Guggino got more than a couple nice runs to fly off of his mandolin.

Banjo player Steve Martin was in attendance (see this previous post) and joined the band on stage for two numbers -- his own "The Crow" and Earl Scruggs' "Foggy Mountain Breakdown." He and the band had a lot of fun, and when Sarah texted her father to let him know that she was watching Steve Martin play banjo at a small club in New York, he responded with an incredulous vulgarity! (Allan also was sad to have missed him.)

The show was mostly straightahead bluegrass, although the band plays nearly all originals. But they did one of my favorites, "Call the Captain," about a mine-worker deciding that he's not going into work, which is slightly folkier, and they did it beautifully.

I do believe that in requesting an encore, Sarah screamed out "I love you! Come back!" to the band, and although this inspired a bit of jealousy in me, it was appropriate sentiment because these Steep Canyon Ranger kids can pick.

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