Danny Barnes returns to Country Fried Rock to discuss his recent accolade, the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass. Barnes has two distinct audiences: those who know him for playing with bands ranging from Dave Matthews Band to the Butthole Surfers, and those who know him for his songwriting and wide-ranging banjo styles. The term “electronic folk” may have been coined just for him.
Barnes is fascinated by sound, and how incongruous sounds mesh or conflict. From the computer programs he designed to interpret his banjo or bazouki playing to his obsession with noise music and cassettes, Barnes is engrossed by the process as much as the product. This year, he released a special recording for Cassette Store Day on his cassette-label, Minner Bucket Records, and will release a more traditional bluegrass album later. Barnes’ take on “tradition” is anything but traditional, though, so it is guaranteed to be another fascinating investigation of technology and instrumentation.
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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.)
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Steep Canyon Rangers