By Robin Hilton, NPR
It’s hard to think of an artist who’s brought more joy to more people, across more generations — and in more ways — than Steve Martin. In the 1970s, he won the hearts of young children for his playful appearances with The Muppets while simultaneously charming legions of older fans with his subversive standup routines. Later, as an actor, he wrote and starred in some of the most memorable comedies (and a few dramas) of all time, while writing books, plays and even a Broadway musical.
Throughout his 50-year career, one constant in Steve Martin’s life has been the banjo. It was a staple of his early standup shows and even fans who only wanted to laugh couldn’t help but marvel at his playing. Over the years, he’s continued to perform and record with country and bluegrass luminaries like Earl Scruggs, Dolly Parton, Vince Gill and others.
These days Martin is working on music full-time. He’s just released a stellar bluegrass album he recorded with The Steep Canyon Rangers called (perfectly) The Long-Awaited Album, a record filled with often hilarious story songs and world-class performances.
Martin’s set with The Steep Canyon Rangers at the Tiny Desk was at times thrilling, particularly his opening solo for the song “So Familiar.” But it was also playful, comical and a joy to witness. At the end of the typical three-song performance, the group graciously decided to do one more called “Caroline,” a hilarious, first-person account of how not to handle a breakup.