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Steve Martin pairs with Edie Brickell for ‘Love’

Steve MartEdie Brickell are touring behind their just-released album “Love Has Come for You” along with Steep CanyRangers.

Steve Martin and Edie Brickell are touring behind their just-released album, “Love Has Come for You,” along with the Steep Canyon Rangers.

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STEVE MARTIN
& THE STEEP
CANYON RANGERS

with Edie Brickell

◆ 8 p.m. Thursday

◆ Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State

◆ Tickets, $45.50-$95.50

◆ (800) 745-3000;
ticketmaster.com

Updated: August 24, 2013 6:04AM



They may not finish each other’s sentences, but they have a knack for finishing each other’s songs with gorgeous results.

On “Love Has Come for You,” their debut duets album with its rootsy/folk/bluegrass soul, Steve Martin and Edie Brickell have found a songwriting rhythm.

And they have the banjo to thank for it.

“I love Steve’s music,” Brickell said in a recent interview, about the comedian/singer-songwriter whom she has known for more than 20 years (following an introduction by her husband, that other singer-songwriter, Paul Simon). “And I told him at a party that if he wanted to write together, I’d love to give it a go. He called the next week and showed me a song and played it on the banjo and it was just beautiful. It became ‘Sun’s Gonna Shine.’ He played me another, and it became ‘[When You Get to] Asheville.’ His tunes and the way he creates them are just beautiful and melodic and sensitive. They came to me as blueprints of songs, the verses, the chorus, the bridges all very well designed. It was like paint-by-numbers. All I had to do was fill in the colors of a landscape that was pretty obvious and full of personality.”

To fill in those colors, Brickell, who fronted New Bohemians in the 1980s, said she simply started singing out loud as the banjo strains played out; the lyrics just flowed.

“What we didn’t realize is that one [song] was gonna turn into 13,” said Martin, who has made his music mark with the bluegrass/folk-infused Steep Canyon Rangers. “I got on a roll and really enjoyed being able to write new tunes with a banjo and send them off and have them come back in a way made visible with lyrics, and also have a great singer to deliver those lyrics. Even at that point we didn’t think the process would become a record. That was really the joy of it: we had no pressure, no deadline, no commercialized thoughts in our head. It was just done out of fun.”

The fun comes through on the album’s lush simplicity and unassuming tone, which delivers some of Martin’s best musical work to date (his debut album in 2009 won the Grammy for best bluegrass album). He credits Brickell’s lyrical approach; she credits Martin’s multifaceted banjo prowess.

“She was able to bring this very unique, lyrical take on melodies that are both conventional and non-conventional, [though] they’re all conventionally structured,” Martin said. “She was able to bring a very poetic take to them so they didn’t just stay ‘banjo songs.’ They became something else.”

“If you strip it all down and hear just the banjo track, it’s not just bluegrass,” Brickell said. “There’s an element of jazz in it, elements of classical music. All kinds of melodies are in there that are inspired by all kinds of music.”

To helm the project. Martin turned to his old pal Peter Asher, the veteran producer behind the music of James Taylor, Linda Ronstadt, Carole King and Bonnie Raitt.

“We had fallen in love with our demos,” Brickell said, “the simplicity of them. And we didn’t want the album to be over-produced. We were really nervous that someone would come in and alter it and make it unrecognizable, and it would lose its intimacy. Instead, Peter promoted [that intimacy]. “

As for the track that most touches his heart, Martin singled out two diverse cuts with one common thread.

“I gravitate toward ‘Remember [Me This Way],’ because I like the sound of the banjo on that,” he said. “And I also like ‘Love Has Come For You,’ because I keep looking at it from a banjo perspective, and I feel that’s one of my best banjo playing [efforts] even though it’s quite simple. But it’s some of the most emotional banjo playing I’ve ever done in both of those songs.”



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