Asheville- and Brevard-based bluegrass phenoms Steep Canyon Rangers are six players strong, four (very major) awards deep, and many decades immersed in the culture and future of their genre. Five out of six band members are North Carolina natives: in fact, vocalist/guitarist Woody Platt sang in Brevard’s Boys Choir starting in the third grade. He met banjo player Graham Sharp and bassist Charles Humphrey III at UNC-Chapel Hill, where the band was formed some 20 years ago.
For a lot of bluegrass bands, opening for legendary player Earl Scruggs, as the Rangers did in 2002 at the Mountain State Fair, might have constituted “arrival.” However, these pickers were destined for even bigger stages: the group caught the ear of multitasking entertainment titan Steve Martin. The veteran actor also happens to be a mean banjo player. And his comedic stage banter? A hardly-surprising bonus.
Martin debuted with the Rangers on A Prairie Home Companion in 2009. They steamrolled the lucrative union into appearances at some of the world’s biggest music festivals, released an album together – Rare Bird Alert – in 2011, and nailed the International Bluegrass Music Association’s coveted “Entertainer of the Year” award later that year. Rare Bird Alert was also nominated for a Grammy.
Without Martin – who now lives in Brevard – the band went ahead and won a Best Bluegrass Album Grammy on its own, in 2013, for Nobody Knows You. They’ve also picked up two other IBMA awards during their career, and been nominated for several others.
The band will appear at the Brevard Music Festival on June 30. For the first time on a local stage, they’ll present orchestral versions of their work, arranged by Brevard Sinfonia (Ken Lam, conductor) in collaboration with Mountain Song Productions. Alongside Martin, the band has already performed in symphonic settings with the likes of the Boston Pops and the LA Philharmonic.
Now it’s time for them to raise the same bar at home, making Whittington-Pfohl Auditorium their proverbial front porch.
7:30 pm. $15-$50. Transportation available from the Oskar Blues Trolley. Brevardmusic.org