Perusing the concert listings a few months ago, a listing for “Steve Martin & Edie Brickell” jumped out at me. “That Steve Martin? That Edie Brickell?” It all seemed so bizarre. My father later expressed interest in going to the show, as Martin’s newfound musical career apparently gets a great deal of play on XM/Sirius’ bluegrass station. I bought the tickets out of curiosity. Last week, I got a taste of what we might be in for when that performance comes along this summer.
It’s no secret that Martin is a finger-pickin’ banjo man – he’s worked the instrument into his standup routine for years. But only recently has Martin really forged musicianship as a facet of his professional career. Love Has Come for You is actually his third full length album, preceded by 2009’s The Crow and 2011’s Rare Bird Alert. Both cracked the Billboard Top 100 albums chart; both also topped the U.S. Bluegrass charts. Martin’s vocal activity on these recordings is minimal, instead opting for a rolling cavalcade of guest stars. Those first two albums featured appearances by Paul McCartney, The Dixie Chicks, Dolly Parton and others. This approach has also shaded Martin’s third outing, although this time around he’s opted for an album-length collaboration as opposed to a potpourri of guest stars.
At first glance, it does seem an odd pairing. But the drawl of Brickell’s vocals blend perfectly against the bluegrass backdrop spearheaded by Martin’s banjo. Brickell’s lyrics are equally fitting, providing vivid narrative snapshots of American life including themes of separation and longing (“When You Get to Asheville,” “Remember Me this Way”), the value of friendship (“Friend of Mine.” “Sun’s Gonna Shine”), the loss of one child (“Yes She Did”), and the adoption of another (“Sarah Jane and the Iron Mountain Baby”). In addition to these rich yet straightforward narratives, a the album also weaves in a number of love songs, most apparent in the title track, “Siamese Cat,” and “Who You Gonna Take?”
Although it took a few spins to process, listeners are likely to quickly warm up to Love Has Come for You given its rich lyrical narratives and exceptional musicianship. Truthfully, I’m taken aback by how much I’ve been enjoying the album this week – it’s certainly one of the pleasant surprises 2013 so far.
Martin and Bricklell recently appeared on Letterman to promote the album, performing “When You Get to Asheville.” Check Steve Martin’s official website for tour dates!