Steep Canyon Rangers

Best of 2013, Part 1

The Top 20 — Numbers 20 through 11

Every year, we share our Fan Favorites, chosen by the programs that listeners downloaded and streamed the most. I’m always amazed how they clearly line up into the Top 20 Shows. Counting down from 20th to the #1 radio show that y’all loved, here goes! Click HERE for the Top 10.

As always, if you like the band, buy their music. It’s the best way to support them.

Podcasts
Download the free podcast at the very bottom of this page or on iTunes.
Many of the songs from our Top 20 list are in the Special Edition podcasts.

20.
SteelDrivers
How does a band survive when its founder leaves — and their lead vocalist moves on? The SteelDrivers demonstrate their resilience as a band with Hammer Down, their latest album with their current lineup. Bass player, Mike Fleming, shares his own musical path to bluegrass, shaped by The Beatles and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and the influences of the other band members that keep The SteelDrivers on the edges of their genre and bring in audiences who otherwise do not care for bluegrass — even attracting such notable fans as Adele.

19.
Steep Canyon Rangers
Steep Canyon Rangers forged their way in the traditional music scene from their home state of North Carolina through regular forays into the Rockies and back at their base in the Western North Carolina mountains, putting in over 20,000 hours of hard work along the way. (Even Bob Lefsetz might approve of their drive.) Over the years, they have made their own mark within the tight-knit scene, but it was not until they were selected to be Steve Martin’s backing band that their name-recognition expanded beyond Americana, bluegrass, and old time fans. Add in a whirlwind few years of selected shows in Martin’s support and some hefty awards and honors, and the stringband from Carolina was suddenly time-warped from headliner to sell-out headliner.

18.
Belle Adair
Continuing our series focused on new music coming from Muscle Shoals, Alabama, we talk with Matt Green of Belle Adair (and also of The Pollies). Belle Adair‘s new album, The Brave and The Blue, recently released on Single Lock Records, a small indie label collaboration among John Paul White (Civil Wars), Ben Tanner (Alabama Shakes), and Will Trapp. Collaborations exist beyond the business side of music in this tight-knit music community. We have been watching and waiting on Belle Adair since our feature of The Pollies, with whom most of the band also plays. The logistics of such intermingling mean that scheduling can be a challenge, but it also keeps the songs and the playing fresh, as members toggle their attention from one band to the other — in addition to their other music projects. As a listener, The Brave And The Blue falls squarely in the elusive “Southern indie” sound that is neither Americana nor Triple A, not quite pop and not fully rock.

17.
Caitlin Cary of NC Music Love Army
Caitlin Cary and Jon Lindsay formed the NC Music Love Army after a long phone conversation inspired by a song quickly written and posted on YouTube by their mutual friend, Django Haskins of The Old Ceremony. What had started in their state of North Carolina as weekly summertime protests against restrictive state legislation regarding voting rights, gay marriage rights, and women’s health rights, dubbed “Moral Mondays,” made strange bedfellows of disparate causes within a state known for its more progressive outlook than much of the South. The groups saw their political landscape changing, and took to the streets with their only weapon — songs. Protest music certainly is not new in America, the South, or even North Carolina, but it’s been over forty years since so many groups came out publicly to share their discontent. What was borne of passion for these musicians, has become the NC Music Love Army — a movement, an album, and a live show.

16.
Jack Logan

Jack Logan is known for his comics as much as his music, starting with his “Pete Buck Superhero” series in the 1980s. While the reluctant hero of the series may not have warmed to the idea right away, R.E.M. fans in Atlanta flocked to local record stores for the cult-series comic, which was kept in the glass case at check out, full of thumbprints from everyone who just wanted to see it. Logan never stops creating, and his most recent album is with noted luthier, Scott Baxendale of Baxendale Guitar in Athens (formerly, Colorado). Logan accurately describes his vocals, include the Elvis Costello-ish “Lounge Downtown” and “Erased,” references a part of Athens called Normaltown, all through a filter of psychedelic rock and “Athens rock.” If you don’t crack up listening to “Run For Your Life,” you probably did not find Pulp Fiction funny, either. (You might not know the local connotation, but in Athens, it’s “see you at the rock show.”) With guest appearances from several former & current members of the Drive-By Truckers, this rock record may not be on your radar, but needs to be in your collection.

15.
Rich Mahan
Rich Mahan blames Bobby Bare for his slightly naughty, humorous songs, but really, he just wants you to have fun and enjoy the music. Mahan’s debut solo record, Blame Bobby Bare, creates an auditory party–even if it’s just a quick escape from your workday and stresses of life by cranking up the music. Go ahead and dance around the office if you want.

14.
Austin Lucas

Austin Lucas was born into music and his latest album, Stay Reckless, shows his growth as a songwriter. Like many rockers we cover, Lucas has no interest in replicating his previous records, and strives to constantly move forward and improve as an artist. For Lucas, that transition happened in the midst of divorce and relocating to Nashville — plenty of personal material for a great album. On the record, Lucas is backed by Glossary (Country Fried Rock alumni) and live he has assembled a great band that has toured together extensively over the last several months.

13. Sam Doores & The Tumbleweeds, now called The Deslondes
Sam Doores collaborates in recording and performing, making creative and practical decisions that allow his songs to reach as many audiences as possible. Whether Doores is playing solo, with his band, in a duo setting with a stompbox, or as part of Hurray for the Riff Raff, the versatile musician and songwriter is adding more to his professional toolbox. Doores’ influences range from Hank Williams and Woody Guthrie, to knowledge by necessity with a weekly four-hour gig just off Bourbon Street in New Orleans–fusing the music of Allen Toussaint, old R&B, swamp pop, and traditional country with Irish barroom tunes. Such a diverse setlist allowed him to develop his own skills and sounds as he crafted and improved his own songwriting.

12.
Whitehorse
Melissa McClelland and Luke Doucet joined creatively to form Whitehorse, after many years of successful, separate music careers in Canada. Their first release together sounded like alternating their individual sounds, but their new album, The Fate of the World Depends on This Kiss, creates a new sound that is neither his nor hers, but theirs. With this record, Whitehorse decided to expand into the States. Leaving their comfort zone of Canada and their established careers proved challenging–not just in building new audiences, but also in the realistic logistics of constant touring and creating their sound with limited personnel.

11.
Old Man Luedecke
Old Man Luedecke may be new to US audiences, but the Canadian folk songwriter is well-known and lauded north of the border. As his photo indicates, he is not old, but the music that captures his interest and influences his writing is old. Luedecke references traditional music from the Smithsonian Folkways series, like the Red Clay Ramblers, but sounds more like a folked-out Paul Simon to me. (Interestingly, Simon is never referenced, but I cannot get the vocal comparison out of my ears with this record.)

Click HERE for the Top 10.

Podcast
The music in the podcast is included by special written permission of the bands.

#1243 Steep Canyon Rangers

UPDATE:  Nobody Knows You by Steep Canyon Rangers was just nominated for a Grammy Award! Congratulations!

Steep Canyon Rangers forged their way in the traditional music scene from their home state of North Carolina through regular forays into the Rockies and back at their base in the Western North Carolina mountains, putting in over 20,000 hours of hard work along the way.  (Even Bob Lefsetz might approve of their drive.)  Over the years, they have made their own mark within the tight-knit scene, but it was not until they were selected to be Steve Martin’s backing band that their name-recognition expanded beyond Americana, bluegrass, and old time fans.  Add in a whirlwind few years of selected shows in Martin’s support and some hefty awards and honors, and the stringband from Carolina was suddenly time-warped from headliner to sell-out headliner.

Along the way, Steep Canyon Rangers took Martin’s advice and emphasized their strengths.  His encouragement and seeing their ability to “hold their own” in such esteemed company yielded their most clearly defined album.   Highlighting the “Steep Canyon Rangers’ sound” allows them to stand out in a bluegrass or traditional music festival, but also to captivate an audience when sharing the stage with other genres; in fact, that contrast of sounds often produces a better show for both bands.  As a thank you gift for supporting his performances, Martin facilitated a graphic design partnership for Steep Canyon Rangers’ record, Nobody Knows You, for which they just won an International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) award for packaging design.

Despite their international recognition and recent success, Steep Canyon Rangers continue to support their region of North Carolina. Their festival, Mountain Song, held in Brevard, NC, has raised over $300,000 for the Boys and Girls Club of Transylvania County.  The band is taking their knowledge of hosting a great traditional and acoustic music event to another stage this winter, launching the inaugural Mountain Song at Sea cruise (NOTE:  not for the benefit of the charity) in February 2013.  With much the same line-up as their festivals on land, this themed cruise should be quite fun.  (NOTE:  Country Fried Rock is in no way affiliated with the cruise, the band, nor the promotion company behind the cruise.  We receive no advertising, sponsorship, or trade from any of these entities.)

Thanks for Shopping in the Record Shop for This Radio Show:
Steep Canyon Rangers

Steep Canyon Rangers
Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers

Steve Martin
JD Crowe

J.D. Crowe
The Gibson Brothers

The Gibson Brothers
Hot Rize

Hot Rize
New Grass Revival

New Grass Revival
Del McCoury

Del McCoury
Steeldrivers

The SteelDrivers


Country Fried Rock

Podcast

#1242 The Corduroy Road

The Corduroy Road’s fans sounded alarm bells when the band left their life on the road for a long hiatus, but after nearly an eight-month break, the core of the band emerged with some new players in the lineup, refreshed and ready for the next phase of the band. The Corduroy Road musically balances between Americana and bluegrass in the dance-able area we refer to as “upbeat string band.” Their songs make you move, and you might even miss the weight of some of their lyrics, such as a hunter stumbling upon a meth lab in the woods where the meth-farmer and sheriff are in cahoots. Southern Gothic lyrics to outsiders, perhaps, but just another day in the country to some of us enmeshed in baffling small-town alliances.

With a loyal regional following, The Corduroy Road regularly pack small clubs and local music festivals. Even when in a lineup with bands like The Steel Wheels, Hoots & Hellmouth, Holy Ghost Tent Revival, or Joy Kills Sorrow, they are one of the bands people remember and love, and return to see again. Drew Carman and his band are on the edge of stepping up to larger festivals and supporting national touring acts. The Corduroy Road brings their own crowd, but they also keep the audiences who have not yet heard of them engaged and ultimately, win them over with their set.

Two Step Silhouette, their latest record, reflects the band’s recent circumstances of doing it all themselves. The Corduroy Road was one of those rare bands whose first album was picked up before it was released and re-recorded with a legendary producer (John Keane), and having to revert to a full DIY model was overwhelming for the guys at first. Thus yielded their productive and creatively essential hiatus, from which they have emerged. They are still one of those bands whose energy is best transmitted live, and who is best appreciated from the dance floor or a lawn chair at a festival, but only because you are too tired from dancing to their first set!

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Country Fried Rock

Podcast

#1236 Town Mountain

Town Mountain brings the bluegrass-infused Asheville, North Carolina, music scene into its creative process. In a place where open and invitational bluegrass jams abound, there is little room for slackers, but there is always room for newbies. For a picker who really wants to learn to play from the best, jump in and try to keep up. For the members of the band, they do not join forces with either “side” of the bluegrass camps, and instead write music that appeals to the traditionalist while reflecting what is new and forward-thinking. Town Mountain are Big Tent pickers.

While individuals like Don Reno, Doc Watson, and Earl Scruggs who hailed from the regions made names for themselves, the proliferation of bluegrass jams has spawned many newer players and bands. Steep Canyon Rangers have made international headlines since 2009 when they joined Steve Martin as his “official back-up band,” but many other old-time and bluegrass peers, like Town Mountain, Red June, Balsam Range, and Dehlia Low, bring fresh ideas to the saturated Western North Carolina sounds. Jesse Langlais of Town Mountain sought out this rich musical haven, to hone his skills and make music his life.

With their most recent studio record, Leave the Bottle, Town Mountain keeps their recordings close to their live sound, while incorporating the process as part of the art. For them, this yields an “80% live” album. The band share writing responsibilities, not as a group, but as individuals who then bring some of their songs to the Town Mountain project. By allowing for the freedom to pursue solo projects and other permutations, Town Mountain never gets stale for its members, rather, it’s a refreshing return to a product that is more than the sum of its parts. townmountain.netYour purchase of these songs supports the musicians and this radio show: