Deer Valley • Since Steve Martin, Edie Brickell, and the Steep Canyon Rangers are all independent performing entities, one might not have expected such a natural fit between the three.
But Brickell’s warm, earthy vocals, Steep Canyon Rangers’ tight harmonies and Steve Martin’s banjo playing came together like they were a long-standing act together.
Overall, it was a great entertainment package. Martin did some stand-up comedy schtick between songs, and the rest of the time they played good, solid, bluegrass music.
Most of the jokes were separate from the music, but on a couple of songs — like Martin’s originals “Atheists Ain’t Got No Songs,” “Jubilation Day,” and “Pretty Little One,” — the lyrics were the comedy.
Musically speaking, the real standout was Steep Canyon Rangers’ fiddle player, Nicky Sanders. The entire evening finished off with “Auden’s Train,” which showcased some dazzling playing by Sanders. It’s too bad they didn’t feature him more throughout the evening — although perhaps it was an intentional choice since he showed everybody up with his amazing virtuosity.
Mixing up the instrumentation kept the music fresh and interesting throughout the evening; solo banjo by Martin, group vocal harmonies from the Steep Canyon Rangers, group instrumentals with everybody, and solo harmonies, either with Brickell or a member of the Rangers.
It was nice to hear some variety in the types of music, as well, like featuring the solo Martin playing a more lyrical style of banjo (clawhammer) on the sweet and pretty “The Great Remember.”
While the Utah Symphony was playing with the featured performers, they did their job by providing warmth and a little depth to the sound, but otherwise staying out of the way. But for the visual reminder, most of the time it was easy to forget they were even there.
So it was nice to feature them a little at the beginning of the evening with a few selections from Copland’s “Rodeo.” It was also good to welcome back former Utah Symphony conductor Keith Lockhart at the helm for this performance.
Review: Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers
Bottom line • Performers found their harmony and a fiddle player stole the show.
With • Edie Brickell and the Utah Symphony
Where • Deer Valley Snowpark Outdoor Amphitheatre
When • Friday, July 19