Out In The Open

Steep Canyon Rangers

Ramseur Records, 2018


REVIEW BY: Tom Haugen


While there's certainly no shortage of bluegrass outfits popping up from North Carolina, Brevard's Steep Canyon Rangers can say they've been at it longer than most. Now approaching two decades together, the sextet has released nine albums, and two additional ones with Steve Martin. Yes, you read that right, that Steve Martin, who handpicked SCR as his backing band for numerous festivals and appearances.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Though this album is without the banjo wielding actor, and features a new bass player on board, it's easily among their best work. This is no doubt also in big part to producer Joe Henry, who has a few of those Grammy Awards for his own solo work.

“Farmers And Pharaohs” leads the album with twinkling guitars before a very organic, lush assembling of strings joins in; mountain music and folks sounds are also present, which the band borrow from often on this disc. There's certainly no shortage of banjo acrobatics present either, especially on “Let Me Out Of This Town,” while title track “Out In The Open” relies heavily on harmonica and vocal harmonizing to really stand out.

The middle of the album has the band becoming introspective with the warm, ballad-like Americana of “Going Midwest” and soft, unpredictable “When She Was Mine.” Later in the listen, things become more dramatic, where gorgeous fiddles add greatly to “Best Of Me.”

Other album highlights include the darker, banjo driven “Love Harder” and the nearly a cappella “Shenandoah Valley,” which carries an oldies feel. The only cover present, Bob Dylan's “Let Me Die in My Footsteps,” is a powerful and cathartic interpretation,  and “The Speed We're Traveling” ends the disc with one of the most playful tunes, a danceable country rock anthem.

Steep Canyon Rangers doesn’t appear interested in any sort of commercial or radio appeal here, as none of the pop tricks of their peers are present. Instead, we just get genuine, heartfelt bluegrass with the timeless spirt of folk, country, and Americana.

Rating: B

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© 2018 Tom Haugen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Ramseur Records, and is used for informational purposes only.