One of the more anticipated albums recently around the Twangville offices is the new one from Steep Canyon Rangers.
Out In the Open finally hit our hard drives a couple of weeks ago andI got a chance to ask banjo player and lead vocalist Graham Sharp a few questions about the record. What really came through is how the band was striving for a spontaneous sound, and wanted to focus less on getting every note perfect. Nowhere is this more obvious than on Going Midwest, a simple acoustic guitar and vocal number featuring Woody Platt and Mike Guggino that Sharp notes is pretty spellbinding in their live shows.
Producer Joe Henry also held the line on the guys trying just one more take. This resulted in a couple of pretty special songs where you get the instrumental skill the band is known for as well as the more emotional vocals. Roadside Anthems gives everyone a chance to solo while the singing builds to a crescendo in this take on life-on-the-road. Let Me Out Of This Town adds desperation to the angst-laden lyrics with Nicky Sander’s fiddle and Sharp’s banjo.
The guys do a take on Dylan’s Let Me Die In My Footsteps that builds a plea for normalcy to its war protest song roots. The Speed We’re Traveling finishes the album with a walking-bass line, finger-snapping swagger.
Between their own impressive catalog of work and their collaborations with comedian Steve Martin, Steep Canyon Rangers have managed to make fans across the entire spectrum of bluegrass and Americana music. I asked Sharp about the differences between traditional and progressive bluegrass and his reply was, “[it’s] like saying Jerry Lee Lewis is killing classical music because he plays the same instrument as Mozart.” With Out In the Open, Steep Canyon Rangers continue to show why following their own path has rewarded music fans faithfully.
About the author: I've actually driven from Tehatchapee to Tonopah. And I've seen Dallas from a DC-9 at night.