STEEP CANYON RANGERS
Yep Roc Records
I happened to be at MerleFest in 2019 and was able to take in this special set the Steep Canyon Rangers recorded that afternoon. The theme of the day for the bluegrass and newgrass stalwarts was to celebrate the history of the music of the state of North Carolina. The show was sponsored by the Come Hear NC organization, which designated 2019 as “The Year Of Music,” created to remind everyone of the amazing talent that has come from the state over the decades. When it came time for Come Hear NC to present a North Carolina-based band talented enough to perform the works of many diverse artists from the past 100-plus years, they chose the Steep Canyon Rangers. The end result of that afternoon live show is this new album, North Carolina Songbook.
On this recording, The Rangers interpret works by North Carolina musicians including legend Ben E. King, banjo great Earl Scruggs, early banjo innovator and singer Charlie Poole, jazz great Thelonius Monk, old-time fiddler Tommy Jarrell, the late singer-songwriter and guitarist Elizabeth Cotten, pop legend James Taylor, the influential Ola Belle Reed, and IBMA Hall of Famer Doc Watson and his wife Rosa Lee Watson.
Highlights include Woody Platt’s vocals on King’s “Stand By Me,” the banjo-driven “Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down,” a version of “Blue Monk” described by the band as “Bill Monroe Meets Thelonious Monk,” Nicky Sanders’ fine fiddle work on “Drunkard’s Hiccups,” and a wonderful, rollicking bluegrass version of Ola Belle’s “I’ve Endured.” James Taylor’s music always sounds good played in his home state, and that is especially true of this version of “Sweet Baby James.” (www.yeproc.com)DH