The Steep Canyon Rangers will return to the Florida Theatre on Saturday, November 4. Over the course of two decades, the group has collaborated with banjo-playing comedy legend Steve Martin, singer-songwriter Edie Brickell and a whole host of others on their way to be being heralded as one of the finest bluegrass outfits working today.
And while the Rangers have carved out a niche in for themselves in the American-roots-music space, a successful career as a bluegrass band, especially in the years that coincided with their formation, was never a given.
In the year 2000, music was in an interesting place. The jarring popularity of alternative and grunge rock had belly-flopped into the predictable frat-boy rap metal while hip-hop and underground rock splintered into unpredictable developments. That same year, the Steep Canyon Rangers formed while still in college at UNC-Chapel Hill (a longstanding hotbed of indie rock) as a fully formed bluegrass ensemble. Fittingly, 2000 was also the year that the Coen Brothers’ released O Brother, Where Art Thou?, its soundtrack — stacked with rootsy performances of tunes from Appalachia — would go on to win a Grammy for Album of the Year.
In 2009, the band began their still-running association with comedy legend and banjo virtuoso: Steve Martin. And in 2013, their album Nobody Knows You was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Bluegrass Album. Since their inception, the band has released more than a dozen studio and live albums (including a 2014 release with Martin and Edie Brickell) and despite a few lineup changes, they have remained true to their vision and approach of fusing tradition and contemporary ideas into the bluegrass paradigm. No small feat for a band that stepped up to plate when Fred Durst was furiously rapping about, well, you know.
Earlier this summer, the Rangers began releasing singles from a forthcoming full-length album, Morning Shift (due out September 8), their first to feature new member, mountain-music aficionado Aaron Burdett on guitar and lead vocals.
The Steep Canyon Rangers perform at the Florida Theatre on Saturday, November 4. Tickets are available here.