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Steve Martin at the State

yes, that Steve Martin – he’s a really, really good banjo player

Ian Jacoby

 
Steve Martin will pluck you up.

There’s a moment at the beginning of Steve Martin’s album, Let’s Get Small when Martin says (perhaps facetiously) about his own banjo playing, “Hey, this guy’s pretty good.” He proceeds to joke around with the audience before playing an uber-technical banjo coda. Even on the recording, you can hear the audience’s collective jaw drop. I still consider the first time I heard that as one of the seminal moments of my childhood. Simply amazing. Martin’s music career is much like his acting career – successful, brilliant, and tongue-in-cheek. It’s hard to know where the joke stops and the reality begins, but it is quite clear that his banjo playing is no joke. He has played with Earl Scruggs, Dolly Parton, and even headlined a set at this year’s Bonnaroo. One can tell on first listen that this is more than a self-congratulatory celebrity project. The opening few lines of his solo album, The Crow, see Martin in a place of vulnerability that is rarely reached in his acting career (although it is reminiscent in its tenderness to Martin’s two novellas.) There is soul in Martin’s banjo playing; there is heart. His new project has him fronting the pre-existing bluegrass legends, The Steep Canyon Rangers. It is a match made in heaven. Do I really need to sell this anymore? Jeesh, it’s Steve Martin at The State Theater. I mean, c’mon. And I did it without one allusion to Martin’s movies, because tonight, you belong to me. Damn it, so close.

Steve Martin & the Steep Canyon Rangers • July 26 • The State Theatre, 316 Eau Claire St. • 7:30pm • $48 • 832-ARTS • www.eauclairearts.com