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Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers - Rare Bird Alert

  by Paul Waller

published: 1 / 8 / 2011

Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers - Rare Bird Alert
Label: Rounder Records
Format: CD


Superb second album from film-star-turned-banjo player Steve Martin, which includes support slots from both Paul McCartney and the Dixie Chicks

'Rare Bird Alert' begins with its title track and takes off right where Steve Martin’s 2009 bluegrass effort 'The Crow' ended. It’s a short speedy trek through some banjo pickin’ delightfulness announcing where this record is headed. 'Northern Island' follows suit and shows off Steve’s solo banjo skills like no other moment on here, but it’s the Steep Canyon Rangers that bring the glue that tacks this album together. Martin’s back-up band is crazily tight and brings an authentic flow to 'Rare Bird Alert' that the previous album lacked. Where 'The Crow' had numerous special guests, top billing there had to be Dolly Parton, here the Dixie Chicks throw a small spanner in the works with You. It’s the album’s weakest moment and those that have listened to the Puppini Sisters will already be aware of how a retro 40’s female vocal style should sound, The Dixies get close, but never really fit in with the rest of 'Rare Bird Alert'. It’s an oddity that after a few listens simply becomes a marker that announces that the album is about to head into its final straight. Paul McCartney’s 'Best Love' effort on the other hand (yes THE Macca himself) fits in perfectly and if it appeared on his recent 'Memory Almost Full' LP then it would have been the standout for sure. The style is the same but the hook; although reminiscent of Martin’s own 'Late For School' from 'The Crow' is a heart-warming reminder that no matter what style of music you are listening to if it’s done this precisely then it can turn the most hardened non-believers. This brings us neatly to the album’s most memorable moment. The penultimate track, 'Atheists Don't Have No Songs', which has been recorded live, has a flavour unlike the rest of the songs on here. It’s that feint comedy throughout that makes it work so well. Much like Flight Of The Conchords or Steve Martin’s own aforementioned 'Late For School', if the song is good enough the comedy becomes a secondary thing compared to the great piece of music that is intertwined with. And that’s how I can get over Steve Martin the actor becoming Steve Martin the musician. It’s all about the songs, regardless of genre. The man has won me over again. Think The Jerk rather than Sgt. Bilko.

Track Listing:-
1 Rare Bird Alert
2 Yellow-Backed Fly
3 Best Love
4 Northern Island
5 Go Away, Stop, Turn Around, Come Back
6 Jubilation Day
7 More Bad Weather On The Way
8 You
9 The Great Remember (For Nancy)
10 Women Like To Slow Dance
11 Hide Behind A Rock
12 Atheists Don't Have No Songs
13 King Tut

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