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Steve Martin

Rare Bird Alert – 2011 (Rounder)

Reviewed by John Walker

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CDs by Steve Martin

Following up their 2009 Grammy Award winning "The Crow," Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers present another stellar bluegrass release. With this one, Martin stretches his musical wings by writing or co-writing all of the songs and brings along his trademark brand of humor as well.

This features the same outstanding instrumentals supplied by the exceptional Steep Canyon Rangers, and, of course, Martin on banjo, but also includes a much more vocal and lyrical presence to enjoy. Guest appearances here include The Dixie Chicks on the beautiful ballad You and Paul McCartney singing on a love song, Best Love. How often can you honestly say McCartney may be the weakest link on the list of songs available? Martin has done an exceptional writing job here, showing more depth than many could possibly imagine.

The diverse selection of material mixes upbeat instrumentals, ballads, spirituals and just plain fun. The toe-tapping opening Celtic instrumental Rare Bird Alert gets everything moving right away, showcasing these exceptional talents. Jubilation Day takes a humorous celebratory look at the end of a relationship as only Martin could do.

The fun comes in multiple waves at the end, with the tongue in cheek gospel original Atheists Don't Have No Songs and the classic King Tut done bluegrass style.

What should not be overlooked here behind the great instrumentals and clever writing talents are the tight harmonies.

Martin crosses no lines by implementing his unique brand of humor into his music, since much of The Grand Ole Opry itself is rooted in humorous music. By allowing his talents to blend, Martin has certainly crossed the bridge and has comfortably found his own niche.