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Steep Canyon Rangers stay busy

By John Lupton, July 2012

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Sharp continues to be the band’s primary songwriter, with seven of the dozen tracks on “No One Knows You” written or co-written by him. Between Midnight and the Dawn jumps out as a tune that uniquely captures the Rangers’ distinctive vocal sound, a song with something of a John Hartford vibe, and while Platt admits they’re all Hartford fans, there’s more to it.

“(Graham) wrote it with…John Scott Sherrill, who wrote Wild and Blue and a lot of other country hits, and they kind of developed an idea where there’s two counterpoint lead vocals going down, telling two sides of the story - and, you know, we didn’t know if we’d be able to pull that off. But it turned out to be a great song, and it’s really a crowd favorite on our shows, it’s really different than any other of the songs we play.”

Platt also points out that Sharp’s Ungrateful One, a tale of estrangement between father and son was inspired by Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward Angel, which was set in North Carolina. Recalling the recent passing of another Tarheel State icon, Earl Scruggs, Platt says another of the band’s lucky breaks was getting to play Foggy Mountain Breakdown on the Ryman stage with him.

“Earl is the reason we’re playing the music. Graham got that banjo, and first he started studying Earl, and Charles got the bass, and next thing you know, we’re playing bluegrass. Earl was a major influence on Steve and is a reason Steve’s playing the banjo…these things were important to put us where we are…Earl means a lot to the Rangers, and we’ve listened to and tried to play all his songs at one point.”

On being reminded that Rounder is promoting them as “bluegrass iconoclasts," Platt laughs and says, “I don’t know who writes what, but we’re proud of any complimentary title…I think it has been a challenge for us, in a sense, but at the same time, it’s separated us and given us the ability to have some freedom and stick together. I think we’ve carved out a little niche in the bluegrass world that we fit into, and hopefully we’ll influence other groups and young bands and be special.”

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