Artist: Steve Martin
Title: “The Crow: New Songs for the Five-String Banjo”
The idea of Steve Martin with a banjo in his hands brings to mind his comedic sketches on “Saturday Night Live,” which gives “The Crow: New Songs for the Five-String Banjo” an uphill battle from the jump.
Though Martin is a known comedic scalawag, this record is no laughing matter. Sure, there are jokes – “Late for School” nails a child’s gauge of stress and regret – but this is a legitimate bluegrass banjo effort, something that would feel more appropriate at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival than a comedy club (although, no doubt, given Martin’s appeal, he could do both).
It also includes a supporting cast that includes Dolly Parton, Vince Gill, Earl Scruggs, Tim O’Brien, Tony Trischka and Mary Black.
That Martin keeps pace with the likes of Scruggs says he’s no slouch on banjo and given that most of these tracks are instrumentals, this reads more like a passion project.
Martin receives full or partial songwriting credit on every track except one. At a brisk 43 minutes, it passes briskly and joyously.
Forget about Martin’s comedic past. This is a first-class bluegrass banjo effort. Leave any preconceptions at the door.
Our Music Year is Daily Republic popular culture writer Nick DeCicco’s yearlong online review in 2012 of albums he had previously not listened to. The reviews will appear in print on their corresponding days during 2013. Reach him at 427-6966 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ndeciccodr.