Steep Canyon Rangers ride across Montana

Bluegrass sextet blends serious chops and good-natured fun in Billings, Bozeman and Spokane

New & Notable

Steep Canyon Rangers roam through Lively Times territory in early March with concerts in Billings March 1, Bozeman March 2 and Spokane March 3.

They’re as danceable as the most progressive, party-oriented string band, and equally comfortable translating their songs for accompaniment by a full symphony. It’s that mix of serious chops and good-natured fun that earned the Steep Canyon Rangers the Grammy Award for Best Bluegrass Album Grammy in 2013 (for Nobody Knows You), and that drew celebrated comedian/banjoist Steve Martin to them when he needed a backing band.

With their new recording, Out in the Open, the Rangers affirm their place as one of the most versatile and idiosyncratic bands in all of contemporary American music. The North Carolina-based sextet has spent nearly two decades bending and shaping the bluegrass aesthetic, wedding it to elements of pop, country, folk rock, and more to create something original and all their own.

Out in the Open is perhaps their bravest excursion thus far, transcending bluegrass while in many ways getting closest to the genre’s true form thanks to producer Joe Henry’s very traditional approach toward recording.

Steep Canyon Rangers have been expanding the parameters of bluegrass since coming together in 2000. Since then, the band has developed a remarkable catalogue of original music that links them to the past while at the same time, demonstrates their ambitious intent to bring string-based music into contemporary relevance.

With that goal in mind, Steep Canyon Rangers have in recent years begun collaborating with some of Americana’s most distinctive producers, and working with top studio hands to take newfangled routes in crafting their ever-evolving approach. Out in the Open sees the band teaming up with Joe Henry, an accomplished singer-songwriter as well as a three-time Grammy Award-winning producer (Solomon Burke, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Carolina Chocolate Drops) with a particular affinity for American roots music.

In addition to their new recording, 2018 will see the Steep Canyon Rangers uniting with their local Asheville Symphony to record an album that will once again push their increasingly distinctive music into unexpected terrain.

Catch the Rangers on tour:

Billings: 7:30 p.m. March 1 at the Alberta Bair Theater; call 406-256-6052 or order tickets online.

Bozeman: 7:30 p.m. March 2 at The Ellen; call 405-585-5885 or order tickets online.

Spokane: 8 p.m. March 3 at the Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox; 509-624-1200 or visit the Spokane Symphony.

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