Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
These boys from Asheville, North Carolina have done quite well for themselves. The core of the band has been together since 2000. They have gotten some much deserved acclaim and are Steve Matin’s band of choice when he gets the banjo bug.
Let me introduce the band, you got: Woody Platt on acoustic guitar and lead vocals; Graham Sharp on banjo, lead and harmony vocals; Mike Guggino on mandolin and harmony vocals; Charles R. Humphrey III on upright bass and vocals; Nicky Sanders on fiddle and vocals; and Mike Ashworth on the box kit, cajón, and vocals.
Technical excellence is the first thing that comes to my mind. These fellas are absolutely perfect when it comes to song composition, writing, singing, and playing. Everything is done at an exceedingly high level. But, none of that matters if the following questions are not answered with a yes: 1) Does it move me? 2) Does it rock? 3) Is it something that I need to listen to again? It is possible for something to be technically perfect but not adequately answer the three basic questions above. Here are the answers to the questions for Out In The Open: 1) YES 2) YES 3) YES. A triple crown.
The songs are on the softer side of the scale, but they still rock. This is proof positive that you don’t have to be loud and fast to rock. You just need to be able to sense the energy that the artists intended. So this rocks like a son of a gun. That’s a good thing, believe me.
One of the more uptempo songs on this collection is Let Me Out Of This Town (Track 2). This song is brilliance. The instruments blend together so well, they sound as if they are unified. The jamming with everyone giving 100% is uplifting. Hearing the fiddle, mandolin, percussion, etc. all completely in sync and jamming their proverbial asses off is inspiring.
This leads perfectly into the next song Out In The Open (Track 3). This song is a complete stunner. The harmonica on this song is sheer bliss. It takes this tune into a bluesy direction that is unexpected and completely refreshing. This has the feel of a band in a poker room in the west at the turn of the 20th century. It takes me to a place far from where I am right now.
The Steep Canyon Rangers cover one of the most beautiful Bob Dylan songs ever written and performed and they nail it. Let Me Die In My Footsteps (Track 11) is a real tear jerker. The Rangers capture Bob Dylan’s sadness and add a ton of value to this song by adding the pitch perfect harmonies and a little bit of a tempo change. They dolled up a classic.
This is a must have. No ifs and or buts. The music is not just good, it borders on magical. If you don’t buy this one, it will change my opinion of you so called music aficionados. Prove it. If you buy this, I will believe your sincerity. And you will end up with a gem of an album. That’s a win win – ladies and gents.