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Steep Canyon Rangers

Deep in the Shade – 2009 (Rebel)

Reviewed by Kevin Oliver

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CDs by Steep Canyon Rangers

Since being named Emerging Artist of the Year at the 2006 IBMA awards, Asheville, N.C.'s Steep Canyon Rangers have blazed a path through bluegrass that is respectful of tradition and yet utterly contemporary-sounding, fulfilling their early promise and then some. This new album comes on the heels of the band's work on Steve Martin's banjo album "The Crow" and the subsequent tour, another example of how the Rangers have managed to play to multiple segments of a growing fan base.

Bluegrass singer Ronnie Bowman produced this new set, and his influence can be heard in the strong vocal presence of singer Woody Platt throughout as well as the memorable lyricism of songs such as The Mountain's Gonna Sing. Turn Up The Bottle proves that the band's instrumental inspiration continues to come as much from blues and rock as it does from classic bluegrass, though other tracks, from Have Mercy to There Ain't No Easy Street are as much sad country songs as they are new bluegrass classics.

There are still plenty of nods to tradition, from the exquisite a cappella harmonies on Sylvie to the bluesy Heartbreak Is Real, which could have come straight off a Del McCoury Band album. Ultimately, though, Steep Canyon Rangers are a band that's firmly rooted in the present day.