Grammy winning bluegrass band comes to Beaver Creek
Win a Grammy and watch your band name climb the music charts. That’s what the members of Steep Canyon Rangers learned after they took home a coveted gilded gramophone on Feb. 10. “We were like in the 3,000’s somewhere of all record sales on the Amazon chart and right after the Grammy, we shot up to 200,” said Woody Platt, guitarist and lead singer of the Steep Canyon Rangers, whose album “Nobody Knows You” won in the Best Bluegrass Album category. “It’s a big jump (in the numbers). It doesn’t stay there, but we’ve seen that a lot. We’ll do a high profile tour with Steve and sales go up. If you do a TV show, you see a sales spike. That’s the name of the game though – get the music out there.”The Steve that Platt is referring to is actor and comedian Steve Martin, who you may or may not know is also a damn good banjo picker. The band backs up Martin on some of his tours and does some of its own as well – and the shows are completely different, according to Platt. Right now the band is touring Colorado without Martin. The quintet will perform at the Vilar Performing Arts Center tonight. In May, the band will tour with Martin and singer-songwriter Edie Brickell. Last year, the Asheville-based band was nominated for Best Bluegrass Album for the first time with Martin for their album together, “Rare Bird Alert,” but Alison Krauss won. Martin didn’t collaborate on “Nobody Knows You.””It was especially exciting this year because it was on our own, not a collaboration with Steve,” Platt said. But Martin was there – photographing the band in front of the limousine that came to pick them up for the awards ceremony, just “like a proud father,” Platt said. The band also stayed with Martin at his home in L.A. Sitting in silenceThough the band didn’t expect to win, they decided to trek to the West Coast for the awards.”We’d been the year before and regardless of if you win or not, it’s a really fun party. The Americana, rootsy, non-mainstream awards are given away during the day and the bluegrass award was like the 46th award to be given. We sat there through 45 awards, things like ‘Tropical Latin’; a lot of diverse awards. We were enjoying it, but we were on the edge of our seats.”When the bands name was called, the five men sat in stunned silence. But they soon recovered.”We jumped up and ran to the stage,” he said. “It was an amazing honor.”The band navigated a “media gauntlet” for nearly two hours after the awards, Platt said.”It was cool because the interviewers were making a direct connection between the top award (nominees), like Mumford & Sons, Avett Brothers and The Lumineers and our band because of the bluegrass influence in those bands. That’s been a topic ever since.”That’s a coup for Platt and his bandmates, who have been pushing the boundaries of bluegrass since they formed in 2001, in an effort to make music that’s accessible to fans of the genre as well as new listeners. “The Steep Canyon Rangers are truly remarkable musicians,” said Kris Sabel, executive director of the Vilar Performing Arts Center. “These gentlemen know exactly how to blend their tremendous talent into bluegrass harmony that is unique and entertaining.”From boat, to award stage, to barnLife has been a bit of a whirlwind for the band the last five weeks or so. The week before the Grammy awards, the band was on a boat.”It’s a crazy run we’re on,” Platt agreed. “We hosted our first bluegrass cruise out of Miami,” Platt said. “It was a huge success. Seven hundred cabins filled up with bluegrass fans; and 15 bands like Del McCoury and Punch Brothers – good bands.”They spent two days at home in North Carolina, then flew to L.A. for the big awards. After that, they were home for two days again before heading north, to Woodstock, New York and Levon Helm’s barn, which is a recording studio. With big fires burning in the fireplace, the group holed up for 12 days to record a new album, which they hope to release this coming fall. “We met Levon Helms (co-founder and drummer for The Band) last year, a few months before he died,” Platt said. “He invited us to come record there and we took him up on his offer. It’s an amazing studio, a big timber frame barn in the woods. It was wonderful.”Alongside new producer Larry Cambell (he produced Helm’s two Grammy-winning albums, “Dirt Farmer” and “Electric Dirt”), the band opted to record the album live and well-known drummer Jeff Sipes joined them. Sipes will also perform with the band in Beaver Creek tonight. So with Grammy in hand, does the band feel more pressure with this next album? “I don’t think we do,” Platt said. “This album is different and can’t be compared to anything we’ve done in the past. But sure, anytime you generate a larger audience, you realize each record you make is going to reach more people so you want to make better and better projects.”
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