Who the Heck Are … Steep Canyon Rangers

September 5, 2013
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The long-running North Carolina quintet became bluegrass’ standard-bearer in 2009 while touring the country and making TV appearances as the backing band for comedian Steve Martin’s banjo show. Last year, they won their first Grammy with their eighth album, “Nobody Knows You.” The follow-up, “Tell the Ones I Love,” drops on Tuesday.

Bros Before Banjos

Three of the Rangers met in 1995 as students at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. They formed the band in 1999 and practiced in the music building with a borrowed bass. “None of us were music majors,” says guitarist Woody Platt. “Graham [Sharp] was a comparative literature major, Charles [Humphrey III] was an international studies major, and I was in interdisciplinary studies.”

Famous Friends

The late Levon Helm once invited the Rangers to record in his Woodstock, N.Y., barn. They took The Band man up on his offer last winter. “It’s an old, timber-frame barn with a big fireplace and snow piled up outside,” Platt says. “I bet on some tracks you can hear the crackle of the fire.”

Shut Up and Play

The guys used to tell jokes onstage between songs, but Steve Martin cured them of the habit. “Now that we’ve worked with Steve and seen how well you can do comedy, we don’t touch it.”

Birchmere, 3701 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria; Fri., 7:30 p.m., $29.50; 703-549-7500.
Sadie Dingfelder is a features writer for the Washington Post Express.
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Marc Silver | September 5, 2013