Rare Bird Alert

Rare Bird Alert

After proving that his banjo playing is no joke on 2009’s The Crow: New Songs for the Five-String Banjo, comedian and actor Steve Martin joined forces with the Steep Canyon Rangers for a tour, which led to their collaboration on Rare Bird Alert. Martin’s name may be listed first and he is the main songwriter, but this is truly a group effort. No mere backing band, the celebrated Steep Canyon Rangers have been together for a decade and have six fine albums to their credit and they all sound spectacular together. Martin sings on the joke-filled “Jubilation Day,” “Atheists Don’t Have No Songs,” and the novelty hit “King Tut,” but it’s mostly his banjo we hear within the context of this excellent bluegrass band. Graham Sharp is the Ranger’s top-notch banjo player and he usually takes the second banjo breaks on this album. The warm tenor of Woody Platt is the other lead singer, and there are also lead vocal cameos by Paul McCartney (“Best Love”) and the Dixie Chicks (“You”). Rounding things out are some impressive instrumentals including the title track, “The Great Remember (for Nancy),” and “Hide Behind a Rock.”

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