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Steep Canyon Rangers refuse to mail it in

Harper's Ferry, Boston, August 26, 2006

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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Steep Canyon Rangers could have quite easily mailed in this performance. After all, there's not a whole lot to get excited about when your crowd totals maybe 50 people and dwindles by another 20 during a second set.

But these bluegrass youngsters weren't put off by the lack of a crowd in a 400-person capacity club where one band member said they drew about 300 last time out. In fact, the quintet proved stronger as the evening wore on.

Steep Canyon Rangers is an Asheville, N.C.-based band with a few strong discs out on Rebel under their belt last year's "One Dime at a Time" and a self-titled release the previous year - plus an indie release. They tend to mix it up between instrumentals, bluegrass gospel and some more country-oriented songs not being pigeon-holed as a dyed-in-the-wood traditional bluegrass band, but clearly cutting the grass as well.

There are no weak links in this band consisting of Woody Platt on lead vocals and acoustic guitar, Graham Sharp on banjo, Charles Humphrey on bass, Nicky Sanders on fiddle and Mike Guggino on mandolin.

The first set was good, but failed to find the quintet quite catching fire. They played well enough. Platt was fine as well in putting the songs across, but it wasn't until near the end of the set, closing with "Bluegrass Blues" and "Tennessee Blues" that they turned it up a notch.

Fortunately, a half-hour break didn't cut into the momentum that was building. Actually, just the opposite.

Quickly into the second set, SCR found themselves in a solid groove with all members contributing to make for a strong effort from "Last Girl on Earth" with Sharp's banjo spearheading the attack to the stretched out instrumental "Knob Creek" where they went soft and soon mixed it up. The difference was the energy level seemed a lot higher from all concerned.

The Rangers took the smart route in putting their heart and effort into the evening instead of caving into the numbers. Good thing because they gave reason to those there to return next time around, maybe with a lot of friends in tow.