on April 23, 2013
I instantly liked this album so much that I ripped the tracks off the internet a week ago so I could listen in my car until the album arrived (by 8pm tonight if Fed Ex's tracking info is correct). I've had a soft spot for Edie Brickell since the album, Ghost of a Dog, and Love Has Come For You has many of the strengths that Ghost of a Dog did - accessible, warm lyrics; playful but accomplished execution, and a voice where you can actually hear her smiling at times. But Love Has Come For You greatly expands on those qualities, and I can only assume that this is what Steve Martin brings to the table. I want to say that Steve Martin and Edie Brickell sound better together than they would apart, but I'm not sure "better" is the right word; they sound like something more than the sum of their parts. I think that is probably the hallmark of a great collaboration.
Some of the tracks have a strong Edie Brickell feel to them - like Siamese Cat and King Of Boys. Others I would have doubted it was Edie Brickell at all - such as the crisp,spot-on delivery she gives to the title track. This is the first I've heard of Steve Martin's music, so I can't comment on how this collaboration reflects on his style. I can say I WILL be listening to more Steve Martin from now on.
If you're a bluegrass purist, you may want to take a test listen before buying. This album is deftly, almost lavishly produced. I think I even hear some of the voices from Nickel Creek on backing vocals in some of the songs. Also, if you are a believer in "the high-and-lonesome voice that bluegrass requires," as the robert earl keen song describes, you're not going to find it here. In fact, I'm not sure I would even call this album bluegrass at all. I'm leaning more towards well-written, expertly delivered Americana.
Long story short: buy this album. You won't regret it. They really did a great job on it.
I tried to come up with a pithy little title to summarize this album, and the title above was the best I could do. The alternate was "North Carolina bluegrass hipsters on the back porch". Either way, I hope the idea comes across -- this is a fine album that takes a big helping of traditional sounds and presents them with a modern sensibility and a big dose of melancholy.
This album reminds me a lot of North Carolina, and not only because of the geographical references to Asheville and the nearby Iron Mountain. Modern banjo styles from clawhammer to the Scruggs style can be traced back to NC; the album features NC-based Steep Canyon Rangers, which gained attention as the backup group for Steve Martin on his banjo tours of recent years but are now one of the hottest bluegrass acts in the country, winning a Grammy in 2013 for Best Bluegrass Album; and Edie Brickell puts on her best drawl for many of the songs, extending one-syllable words into two with the best of them. The result is an excellent mix of tradition and modern songwriting and instrumental sensibility that sounds like the back porch should.
Not all the songs are melancholy, but most of them are -- even those with upbeat tempos may have lyrics about sad or serious stuff. Like a woman chiding a man in unrequited love ("Who You Gonna Take"), babies being thrown off trains and raised as foundlings ("Sarah Jane And The Iron Mountain Baby"), loved ones who have gone away ("Shawnee").
The songwriting collaborations between Steve Martin and Edie Brickell are really very good. Martin has always written good instrumental music, and Brickell's lyrics are sophisticated. Martin's banjo styles are varied on the album, so it's not really easy to pigeonhole. I'm counting seven of the 13 songs on the album predominantly in old time/clawhammer-type styles, and the other six in Scruggs style, with a little chromatic here and there.
I must admit for me Steve Martin can do no wrong on the banjo -- his debut comedy album "Let's Get Small" back in the 1970s inspired me to ask my parents for a banjo for Christmas, and my banjo lessons were my entryway into the world of making music, which I still do in a very amateurish fashion. So I owe him a great debt, really.
But personal debts to the artists aside, I still think this record deserves five stars as an excellent example of where bluegrassy, back-porch type music can go in our times, remaining true to the best of tradition while not getting stuck in the past. Highly recommended.
on April 30, 2013
Every now and then, artists create an album that is so extraordinary, I wonder what the other 95% are doing out there. LOVE HAS COME FOR YOU is just that: an alternative bluegrass recording that'll wow a cross section of listeners regardless of their take on bluegrass. Many of the songs laugh at pain to keep from crying. A few, such as "Sun's Gonna Shine," exhibit the vulnerability and search for optimism we keep well-hidden. There is an air of wistful grace that permeates this recording, and I never tire of it.
The production is understated and tasteful, and places Martin's 5-string banjo and Brickell's natural voice front and center, without production obstacles. (Her timbre has matured beautifully.) The back-up musicians -- especially Ian Walker on double bass -- are relaxed and expert, and the occasional string quartet fits like a glove, thanks to Geoff Zanelli's seamless arrangements. Sara Watkins and Esperanza Spaulding drop in too, adding melancholy back-up harmonies which never intrude.
The opener, "When You Get Asheville," catches you by the throat, and has the most naked arrangement and lyrics of all,
"If it don't work out,
You can turn around
And come on back to me...
You can come on home to me."
These consistently listenable songs speak of love and loss, the search for home, the things in life that drive us crazy, the inner strength we never knew we had. Ironically, this brief but brilliant album -- in a genre we associate with times past, speaks to us with perfect pitch -- right now. Well into 2013, it's one of the two or three recordings that ring true, bear repeated listening, and remind us how and why great music keeps us going.
So "get along, stray dog" and pick this up. It's a winner.
on April 23, 2013
I am not going to lie, I grew up on bluegrass, but I can't stop listening to this beautiful combination. This on vinyl only enhances my collection and really resonates through my old house.
on May 13, 2013
Forty years ago John Hartford reinvented bluegrass music with a tongue in cheek masterpiece called "Aero Plane", that took aim at the sacred institutions of gospel radio and the Grand Ole Opry. With references to token up, adolescent hormonal rage and red neck ideology, Hartford managed to disarm the old school faithful with his humor, his charm and his virtuoso musicality. "Love Has Come For You" brings together the unique and diverse talents of Edie Brickell and Steve Martin. And with this tour de force effort they take the genera in a whole new direction. "Sarah Jane and Iron Mountain Baby" evoke the same over the top playfulness of Hartford's "Steam Powered Aero Plane". And "Get Along Stray Dog" is as silly and flippant as John's "Up On The Hill Where They Do The Boogie". Yes, it took forty years for a worthy rival to the title of "Most Irreverent Bluegrass Recording of All-time", but Martin and Brickell manage to play serious challenger to the late great John Hartford. This one will be spinning on my CD player for a long while. Yes "Siamese Cat", "Shawnee" and "Fighter" have me in hog heaven and I'll be there for some time.
I bought this on a whim, but it quickly became my favorite music. The combination of Edie Brickell's miraculously crafted, "innocent"/deeply knowing lyrics and Steve Martin's banjo playing is beyond description! For some reason it works. And not just that, it's balm to the soul.
I am a classical musician and have enjoyed crossover and newgrass stuff before, but this is really Beyond Category, as Ellington used to say. The songs seem to come from a wonderful earlier world, like Eden except with El Caminos, clawhammer banjo, and e-mail. Each track is given its own, best special treatment. For example, Esperanza Spalding drops in to play some terrific upright (?) bass on track 8 or 9. (This sounds like a gimmick, I know, but listen up -- THERE ARE NO GIMMICKS, anywhere. Just perfect music.)
Just listen, and you too will be reduced to mere grateful blubbering. Get this collection, and start campaigning for them to do some more.
on March 1, 2016
Yep Mrs. Paul Simon and Mr. Lets Get Small get together to do a Bluegrass album. You'd think these bohemians were totally off their collective nuts. But this is one of the best albums I have heard in a long, long time and I'm not really into Bluegrass all that much. Edie's voice is better than ever, and time has given her a kind of silky tone that wasn't there in her younger days that fits her fine. Mr. Martin has always been an accomplished banjo player, but his work here might raise him to virtuoso status. Like only the finest musicians seem to be able to do, Steve bares his soul as he picks his instrument.
Do yourself a favor and at least give a few of these cuts a listen, and if you become as captivated as I did, buy the recording. You won't be sorry that you did
An argument could be made that Steve Martin has been a musician all his life and the comedy thing just got in the way. The banjo was more than just a comedic prop. His 1981 album THE STEVE MARTIN BROTHERS devoted an entire side to traditional bluegrass (mostly originals!). So to view Martin's music career as a vanity project is totally off the mark.
Martin has spent the past several years focusing on his music and released two successful albums before teaming with Edie Brickell on LOVE HAS COME FOR YOU. All music was composed by Martin and Brickell with Brickell writing the lyrics. Not really bluegrass in the traditional sense, these tunes ooze a haunting charm with Martin's subtle banjo playing and Brickell's smooth as molasses vocals. Listening to this album is like sitting in their living room while they perform--it has that intimate, cozy vibe. There are some big name guest artists like Sara and Sean Watkins, Waddy Wachtel and Matt Rollings. Also, producer Peter Asher (yes, I'm old enough to remember Peter & Gordon) appears on nearly ever track.
There are no blazing solos, but the performances of all the instrumentalists provide a melodic base and the vocals float along to provide a satisfying and enjoyable listening experience. Repeated listens will only deepen your appreciation of this gem of an album. Favorite tracks: "When You Get to Ashville," "Sarah Jane and the Iron Mountain Baby" and "Yes She Did." (The latter is the only duet on the album with Martin providing additional vocal and the only instrumental accompaniment--also the album's shortest track at 1:34.)
I saw Martin and Brickell in concert shortly after this album's release. While he utilized his comedic skills as master of ceremonies, he was all business when it came to his performance as a musician. It was an awesome show and this is a terrific album. [Running time - 36:21] HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
on April 30, 2013
This is a delight. Steve Martin can do no wrong in my book. Still, the pairing with Edie Brickell, whom I frankly hadn't thought about since "Shooting Rubberbands..." came out, what, 20 years ago? more? seemed curious to me. But like a lot of these collaborations (see Krauss, Allison and Plant, Robert), it is that very unlikeliness that enhances the union.
Martin is not Bela Fleck, but he's not trying to be. His playing (mostly clawhammer) is clean & crisp. It is generally understated rather than showy, even when he is in fact doing some pretty sophisticated stuff. I had forgotten how fetching Edie's quirky voice is.
The best two tracks are "When you get to Ashville" & the title track. I like any of the pieces with the strings, which are brilliantly produced. Other parts of the album are much more spare in their production, when that is the sound that best befits the song.
If you are hesitating as to whether to buy this disk or not, hesitate no more: do yourself a favor, & click "add to cart." You won't regret it.
on May 31, 2013
I love Edie Brickell's voice, and her collaboration with Steve Martin is wonderful. No gimmicks - just straight-up great music and lyrics. I especially like "Love has come for you" and the "Iron Mountain Baby," but I think overall this album is a gem.