From college students to one of the top bluegrass bands touring today, the Steep Canyon Rangers met at the University of North Carolina and have stuck together, turning pro in 2001. For these fine musicians and songwriters to have met, jelled together, and risen to the top of the bluegrass mountain seems less than simply coincidence and more like providence.
The Steep Canyon Rangers do not compromise bluegrass; it flows through every song like a mountain breeze. One of the best bands to see live, they perform with the same flare for precise harmonies and sense of humor as Dailey and Vincent.
The talented members are: Woody Platt, lead vocals and guitar; Mike Guggino, mandolin and vocals; Charles Humphrey III, bass; Nicky Sanders, fiddle and vocals; and Graham Sharp, banjo and vocals.
“Heartbreak Is Real”
Of the twelve pieces on “Deep In The Shade,” banjo player Graham Sharp wrote six songs. “Heartbreak Is Real” is a perfect “bob your head” kick off to this CD. Woody Platt, lead vocals and guitar, matches his voice to the tenor of this song. “Turn Up The Bottle And Drink It Down” has the bottle as a vehicle to get back to Asheville. The easy lilt of Graham Sharp’s song “The Mountain’s Gonna Sing” speaks of a mountain retreat that helps soothe the soul.
Bass player and band spokesman Charles Humphrey III wrote “Shades Of Gray” with Johnny Buck and Mark Bumgarner. Charles and Phillip Barker co-wrote “There Ain’t No Easy Street” and “I Thought That She Loved Me,” a bluegrass swing number dancers should love.
Nicky Sanders, fiddler extraordinaire, penned “Mourning Dove.” As you would expect, Nicky Sanders exploits his fiddle talents in this highflying instrumental of a wounded bird. Nicky is clearly the most innovative and chop-laden musician in the band. Like a mockingbird, Nicky loves to mimic sounds we hear. As a sidebar, watch him play every car sound you can think of in “Feelin’ Just A Little Like Dale” on a YouTube version.
Of the two remaining songs, Paul Campbell and Huddie Ledbetter’s “Sylvie” showcases Steep Canyon Rangers’ strong a cappella harmonies. A nice bass vocal pervades this song and reminds one of Pine Mountain Railroad’s bass vocalist Bill McBee.
The venerable Merle Haggard’s “I Must Be Somebody Else You’ve Known” is covered on this CD. Steep Canyon Rangers give this song an old-timey bounce that’s refreshing.
Steve Martin sums up this band in the liner notes:
“I was visiting family down south and found myself on the back porch of a house in North Carolina. ‘We have some friends who play’,” someone said. “Oh right,” I thought. They came over and slowly broke out their instruments and soon I was struggling to keep up, though being nice Carolina boys, they would never say, “That was the wrong chord, Steve.” Woody’s big guitar, Graham’s smart banjo, Mike’s delicious mandolin, Nicky’s amazing fiddle and Charles’ hot bass let me know pretty quickly that I was playing along with one of the great new bands in the bluegrass world.”
Steep Canyon Rangers is currently touring with Steve Martin (on banjo and comedy).