Steve Martin to release album of original banjo tunes

In an episode of late and greatest high school TV series Freaks and Geeks, freshman Sam finally takes longtime crush Cindy to a movie. They see The Jerk, which Sam is sure any soulmate of his would enjoy. (She doesn't.) Later, as he attempts to explain why the relationship won't work to his friends, he harps on the fact that she didn't laugh. It's a simple principle he learned early: If the one you love doesn't love The Jerk, it's probably not going to last.

The movie showcased Steve Martin's first of many leading roles in feature films. But as it turns out, when lives all over America were (or should have been) decided based on reactions to this debut performance, Martin was already honing a different skill set: banjo playing.

From The Bluegrass Blog comes news that this hobby, handled for years in the background of his comedic and acting commitments, will be coming to the foreground in the form of an album. No news is yet available if a label has expressed interest, but recording has been completed with production by John McCuen (of Nitty Gritty Dirt Band fame) and assistance from a host of other players and engineers.

The album is full of "serious banjo music," says the blog—as opposed to a record full of a comedian's snide, farcical bluegrass, we suppose—and Martin plays and composes in both 3-finger and clawhammer styles with apparent skill and ease. McCruen had only good things to say:

Driving, yet sensitive when needed. This album will amaze many because it will show people that Steve takes his music as seriously as he does his other work and performs it at that level. Steve has written some of my favorite banjo tunes. I think after the release of Steve’s new album a couple of tunes might become standard fare for new pickers.

This news comes just on the tail of the lineup announcement for San Francisco's Hardly Strictly Bluegrass concert series, and though Martin doesn't appear on the bill, here's to hoping he makes a guest appearance. Maybe he'll bring a ukulele and sing a little, too.

Related links:
Review: Steve Martin - Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life

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