Who doesn’t covet Steve Martin? Whether it’s acting, comedy, writing, or playing banjo, Martin oozes talent from every pore. For his latest CD with former bandleader of the New Bohemians and an accomplished soloist, Edie Brickell, the fleet-fingered Martin displays the more subtle aspects of his instrumental playing prowess.
What started out as “just playing around” turned into the inaugural CD of 13 rootsy, eloquently presented compositions from Martin and Brickell. Writing separately, Martin would compose the melodies of a banjo tune while Brickell would go off by herself and write the lyrics to the song. The two exchanged digital files via e-mail. The collaborative result is evocative numbers such as “Remember Me This Way,” “Sarah Jane And The Iron Mountain Baby,” and “When You Get To Asheville.” In writing her narratives, Brickell turned to the colorful scandals and tragedies that her grandmother and sisters told about ‘down home’ (Paris, Texas). Martin demonstrated the strength of the ‘less is more’ studio philosophy. “I think the banjo can be so evocative when it’s used sparingly, and that was in the back of my mind as we were writing,” Martin says. “It’s the way I’ve longed to play and hear the banjo for so long, rather than it being present at every moment and playing sixty notes a second,” Martin said.
Joining Brickell’s gentle vocals and Martin’s organic approach on the recording are the Steep Canyon Rangers (with whom Martin records and tours), Nickel Creek alumni Sara Watkins and Sean Watkins, guitarist Waddy Wachtel, and bassist Esperanza Spalding. (Rounder Records, One Rounder Way, Burlington, MA 01803, www.rounder.com.)BC