As a premier American bluegrass band, the Steep Canyon Rangers have had the opportunity to travel to, and perform in, some of the nation’s top music cities. But for this North Carolina group, half of whose members live in Asheville and half in the neighboring community of Brevard, there’s no place like their home base.
“The (Asheville) music scene, along with everything, has just exploded – the variety of everything that goes on here, just the level of talent. There are so many (music) venues, you can’t even keep up with everything going in town right now,” the band told National Public Radio’s World Cafe. “It’s an inspiring place.”
Naturally, Asheville is where the Steep Canyon Rangers prepared for their 2017 national tour with three days of performances at the nationally-renowned venue, The Orange Peel. The Rangers will be on tour through August continuing their collaboration with actor/banjoist/comedian Steve Martin while also adding in comedian Martin Short to shows along the way. Tour stops span the United States, from Vermont to California.
ExploreAsheville.com has partnered with Steep Canyon Rangers to sponsor the band's tour bus, which will be spotted in more than 40 U.S. cities this year.
The band is bluegrass to the core but continues to evolve with a fresh sound and identity all its own. And, with a passionate and energetic on-stage style, they sure know how to put on a show.
The Steep Canyon Rangers have been pickin’ and strummin’ on tour for audiences for years but the band traces its humble beginnings back to North Carolina.
Nearly all of the band’s six members are originally from North Carolina. Three of them grew up in Brevard, just 30 miles south of Asheville. They grew up with the musical influences of the area, which are steeped in the traditions of bluegrass and old time mountain music. Those traditions trace back to the Anglo-Celtic settlers of western North Carolina who had mastered the craft of telling stories through song.
As a band, The Steep Canyon Rangers took shape in 2000 when Woody Platt (guitar), Graham Sharp (banjo) and Charles R. Humphrey III (bass) were students at the University of North Carolina playing together in area bars. By 2006, the group had gained momentum and was named the International Bluegrass Music Association Emerging Artist of the Year. It was in 2013 the Steep Canyon Rangers reached a pinnacle in their career, earning the Grammy Award for Best Bluegrass Album.
The Steep Canyon Rangers now have recorded a total of nine studio albums. Two of those albums, including their most recent release, RADIO, were recorded at Asheville’s nationally-recognized Echo Mountain Recording Studios. Among the album’s 12 tracks is a lively instrumental titled “Looking Glass,” an ode to a favorite waterfall in the nearby community of Brevard.
Echo Mountain is also where the band collaborated with the Asheville Symphony Orchestra (ASO) for the Asheville Symphony Sessions album, which brings music from Western North Carolina’s most-beloved musicians together with the orchestra ensemble.
“We have had the opportunity to share the stage with several orchestras around the country, so being invited to work with the ASO right here at home was fantastic,” band member Woody Platt said.
As they tour, they seek to bring that kind of North Carolina sound to audiences all over the country.
“I’d like to think that Asheville is our home voice,” Platt told the Hendersonville Times-News. “(Concert-goers) can expect to hear a lot of youthful, fiery bluegrass that has our own style attached to it: gospel, a capella, instrumental. All around (it’s) pretty entertaining.”