Steep Canyon Rangers

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Steep Canyon Rangers
Steep Canyon Rangers 2013.jpg
Steep Canyon Rangers 2013, photography by David McClister
Background information
Origin Brevard, North Carolina
Genres Bluegrass
Labels Rounder Records
Members Woody Platt
Graham Sharp
Mike Guggino
Charles Humphrey
Nicky Sanders
Mike Ashworth
Past members Lizzie Hamilton

Steep Canyon Rangers are an American bluegrass band from Brevard, North Carolina.[1][2] Though formed in 2000, the band has become widely known since 2009 for collaborating with actor/banjoist Steve Martin. In 2013, the Steep Canyon Rangers' solo album Nobody Knows You won the Grammy Award for Best Bluegrass Album.[3] The previous year, their 2012 collaboration with Steve Martin, Rare Bird Alert, was nominated for the same award. Steep Canyon Rangers have recorded 9 solo albums plus two collaborative albums with Steve Martin. SCR performed as a quintet for nearly a decade before intermittent touring began as a sextet with Steve Martin; the band still performs in both configurations.

In May 2013, Steve Martin & SCR began performing with Edie Brickell after she and Martin co-wrote and recorded an album together, Love Has Come For You, produced by Peter Asher. The record featured performances by Steep Canyon Rangers, Sara Watkins, Esperanza Spalding and others.


Early Success[edit]

Steep Canyon Rangers formed in 2000 while students at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. The core group consisted of Woody Platt (guitar), Graham Sharp (banjo) and Charles R. Humphrey III (upright bass). Early on, Platt's childhood friend, Mike Guggino (mandolin), was asked to join. With original fiddler, Lizzie Hamilton, completing the quintet, Steep Canyon Rangers garnered fans across the U.S. performing festivals from North Carolina to Colorado. Two albums of original music were recorded with the early lineup: "Old Dreams and New Dreams" and "Mr. Taylor's New Home." In 2001, the Rangers took first prize in Lyons, CO at the Rockygrass Festival band competition earning the Rangers a main stage performance the following year. Hamilton left the group in 2003 but heavy touring continued with a rotation of fiddlers leading up to the eponymous CD "Steep Canyon Rangers" (released 2004) on Rebel Records. The album contained a dozen more original songs and featured guests Josh Goforth and John Garris on fiddle.

Fiddle Commitment[edit]

In 2004, Nicky Sanders approached the band for the position of full-time fiddle player and subsequently joined in July. The Rangers recorded their fourth album, "One Dime at a Time" in 2005 with producer Mike Bub (Del McCoury Band). The next year the band won Emerging Artist of the Year at the International Bluegrass Music Association Awards ceremony. Following the release of their fifth album in 2007, the band received two more IBMA nominations for Best Album ("Lovin' Pretty Women") and Gospel Performance of the Year ("Be Still Moses").[5] In 2010, Sanders's fiddle tune "Mourning Dove" was nominated for IBMA Instrumental Song of the Year.

With Steve Martin[edit]

In May 2009, Steep Canyon Rangers were asked by banjoist/comedian Steve Martin to perform with him (as a sextet) in a benefit concert for the Los Angeles Public Library:[6] featuring banjo and comedy. This first collaborative performance took place at Club Nokia in Los Angeles, CA and was met with much acclaim. Martin subsequently asked the Rangers to accompany him on a "world bluegrass tour" taking the group to venues such as Carnegie Hall (New York), Royal Festival Hall (London) and the Wang Center in Boston. While in England, the group also performed on the critically acclaimed music TV show, Later with Jools Holland.[7] On June 27, 2009, Steve Martin and SCR were featured on a broadcast of A Prairie Home Companion. Soon after, Martin played with the band at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival in San Francisco.[8] and Benaroya Hall in Seattle.[9] Martin appeared with the Steep Canyon Rangers at the 2010 Bonnaroo Music Festival and then on Austin City Limits on November 6, 2010. On July 4, 2011 Martin and SCR performed A Capitol Fourth celebration on the West Lawn of the US Capitol Building.[10]

In the summer of 2010, Steve Martin and SCR recorded their first collaborative album, Rare Bird Alert at Echo Mountain Recording in Asheville, NC. The album contained tracks primarily composed by Martin and featured guest vocal appearances by Paul McCartney and the Dixie Chicks. The CD was released the following March, and then on September 29, 2011, Martin and the Rangers were jointly named Entertainers of the Year at the IBMA Awards ceremony in Nashville, TN.[11] In May 2012, Martin and the Rangers played at the 5th annual DelFest as a headlining act.[12]

Continued touring and Grammy Awards[edit]

In 2011, Steep Canyon Rangers signed with Rounder Records with lead singer Woody Platt saying "[the Rangers] are honored to join Rounder Records and be a part of such a rich musical history."[13] The band has recorded three records on the label as well as two collaborations with Steve Martin. A percussionist, Michael Ashworth, was added to the tour in 2013 and subsequently joined the Rangers as full-time member in the fall; Ashworth's performances feature a signature "box kit"[4] consisting of multiple cajóns mixed with standard and modified drum hardware; it is sometimes referred to as a "cajón drum kit."

In 2013, the Steep Canyon Rangers' solo album Nobody Knows You won the Grammy Award for Best Bluegrass Album.[3] The previous year, their 2012 collaboration with Steve Martin, Rare Bird Alert, was nominated for the same award.


Steve Martin playing with the Steep Canyon Rangers in Seattle.
Steep Canyon Rangers at Del McCoury's DelFest in 2009


Title Album details Peak chart
US Grass US
Old Dreams and New Dreams
  • Release date: August 14, 2001
  • Label: Steep Canyon Music
Mr. Taylor's New Home
  • Release date: July 16, 2002
  • Label: Bonfire Records
The Steep Canyon Rangers
One Dime at a Time
  • Release date: September 13, 2005
  • Label: Rebel Records
Lovin' Pretty Women
  • Release date: August 14, 2007
  • Label: Rebel Records
Deep in the Shade
  • Release date: October 6, 2009
  • Label: Rebel Records
Rare Bird Alert
(with Steve Martin)
1 43
Nobody Knows You
  • Release date: March 27, 2012
  • Label: Rounder Records
Tell The Ones I Love
  • Release date: September 10, 2013
  • Label: Rounder Records
Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon
Rangers featuring Edie Brickell LIVE
  • Release date: March 11, 2014
  • Label: Rounder Records
  • Release date: August 28, 2015
  • Label: Rounder Records
"—" denotes releases that did not chart


  • "Me and Paul Revere" (Steve Martin and Steep Canyon Rangers) (2011)
  • "Pretty Little One" (Steve Martin and Steep Canyon Rangers featuring Edie Brickell)[14] (2014)
  • "Test Of Time" (Duet with Steep Canyon Rangers and Edie Brickell) (2015)

Music videos[edit]

Year Video Director
2011 "Jubilation Day" (with Steve Martin)[15] Ryan Reichenfeld
2012 "Long Shot"[16]
2013 "Tell the Ones I Love"[17] Bill Filipiak
2015 "Radio" Chris Bramley

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Work Result
2014 International Bluegrass Music Association Instrumental Performance of the Year "Graveyard Fields"
(Songwriter: Mike Guggino)
2012 Grammy Award Grammy Award for Best Bluegrass Album Nobody Knows You Won
2012 International Bluegrass Music Association Best Graphic Design Nobody Knows You Won
2011 International Bluegrass Music Association Entertainers of the Year, with Steve Martin n/a Won
2011 Grammy Award Grammy Award for Best Bluegrass Album with Steve Martin Rare Bird Alert Nominated
2010 International Bluegrass Music Association Instrumental Performance of the Year "Mourning Dove"
(Songwriter: Nicky Sanders)
2008 International Bluegrass Music Association Album of the Year Lovin' Pretty Women Nominated
2008 International Bluegrass Music Association Gospel Performance of the Year "Be Still Moses"
(Songwriter: Graham Sharp)
2006 International Bluegrass Music Association Emerging Artist of the Year n/a Won

"Steve Canyon Rangers"[edit]

The phonemic similarity of "Steep" to "Steve" and the association of Steve Martin with the band (and perhaps the three-decades-defunct 20th-century commando-style comic strip Steve Canyon) sometimes support impressions of a "Steve Canyon Rangers" band.[18][19][20][21]


  1. ^ "Steep Canyon Rangers benefit concert". The Telegraph. 2009-02-01. Retrieved May 10, 2009. 
  2. ^ Staton, John (2009-03-10). "The Music Column: Steep Canyon Rangers play venues from bars to churches". The Star-News. Retrieved May 10, 2009. 
  3. ^ a b "Grammys: Steep Canyon Rangers Win Best Bluegrass Album...". 2013-02-09. Retrieved 2015-08-05. 
  4. ^ a b "Video: Michael Ashworth & the Box Kit cajon drum kit:". Moravian Percussion. Retrieved 2015-08-05. 
  5. ^ Resch, Jamie (2009-03-12). "Longtime heroes stay fresh by touring and remaining true to traditional bluegrass". The Post and Courier. Retrieved May 10, 2009. 
  6. ^ Bluegrass Today (2009-05-04). "Steep Canyon Rangers back Steve Martin". Retrieved 2015-08-05. 
  7. ^ "Steve Martin @ Jools Live : Videos : Steve Martin & Steep Canyon Rangers perform Saga of the Old West and Jubilation Day". Later With Jools Holland. Retrieved 2015-08-06. 
  8. ^ Madison, Tjames., August 4, 2009. "Steve Martin and his banjo map fall tour." Retrieved on October 4, 2009,
  9. ^ [1][dead link]
  10. ^ "Watch Steve Martin Sizzle : Videos". 2011-07-04. Retrieved 2015-08-06. 
  11. ^ "Steve Martin wins top trophy at Bluegrass awards". BBC News. 29 Sep 2011. 
  12. ^ DelFest website retrieved 6-6-2012
  13. ^ "The Steep Canyon Rangers Sign to Rounder Records". Rounder Records. 2011-06-13. Retrieved June 14, 2011. 
  14. ^ "Future Releases on Triple A (AAA) Radio Stations". All Access Music Group. Archived from the original on 2014-03-06. 
  15. ^ "CMT : Videos : Steve Martin : Jubilation Day". Country Music Television. Retrieved June 7, 2011. 
  16. ^ "YouTube : Videos : Steep Canyon Rangers : Long Shot]". Retrieved 2015-08-05. 
  17. ^ "YouTube : Videos : Steep Canyon Rangers : Tell the Ones I Love]". Retrieved 2015-08-05. 
  18. ^ Susan Dosier, "Steve Canyon Rangers(they play with Steve Martin) playing at VisitNC media event! Wow", [Twitter post]
  19. ^ "Steve Martin & Steve Canyon Rangers Band Signed 11x14 Live Concert Music Photo" e-Bay offer
  20. ^ "Steve Martin and the Steve Canyon Rangers", Waterblogged, Friday, March 18, 2011
  21. ^ "Steve Martin Finds His Muse In 'An Object Of Beauty'", Talk of the Nation (The presumably scripted introduction has "Steep", while the transcript of the interview attributes "Steve" to Martin.)

External links[edit]