Rare Bird Alert by Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers

If you think Steve Martin has no business in country music, keep in mind that the talented banjo player and sometime funnyman is drawing from country’s most revered roots: The Grand Ole Opry cut its baby teeth on rip-roaring, rural instrumentals as well as comedy (albeit the cornpone variety).

While Martin’s second bluegrass outing is again a showcase for serious musicianship, he allows a bit more of his left-field humor to hatch on Rare Bird Alert. Alongside such oddities as the mountain gospel goof-off “Atheists Ain’t Got No Songs” and a remake of the 1978 novelty hit “King Tut,” Steve and the Steep Canyon Rangers also offer kick-grass progressive and traditional instrumentals and simple, lovely melodies on “You” (featuring the Dixie Chicks) and the silly but sweet “Best Love,” earnestly sung by Paul McCartney.

Country music as pure as the kind heard on Rare Bird Alert is rare indeed, and worthy of consideration—even if it does come from a pretty odd duck.

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