Stagecoach 2012: Steve Martin goes whole hog in Indio
It was with some sense of deja vu that Steve Martin pulled into Stagecoach for a performance Saturday that had him and the Steep Canyon Rangers slotted to play immediately after bluegrass music patriarch Ralph Stanley, a situation similar to one in which he and Stanley shared a bill at Carnegie Hall a couple years ago.
"I asked who was going on when, and they said Ralph was opening," Martin said on his tour bus while relaxing on a bench seat with two banjos. "I said, 'No, Ralph Stanley doesn't open for me, I open for him.' So I came out and played a couple of songs and then he went on."
Martin has thrown himself whole hog into his music career after releasing a critically well-received, and Grammy-winning, debut music album in 2009, "The Crow: New Songs for the Five-String Banjo."
PHOTOS: The scene at Stagecoach 2012
"I haven't given up," he said with obvious delight in his voice. "I'm still very interested, not only in the banjo-playing but in the songwriting. We've now got enough material for a third album and a fourth one. That's all in the works."
One of the songs for his next bluegrass album includes a poem by W.H. Auden, "Calypso," which Martin set to music.
"What happened," he said, "was my wife was reading this poem and she said, 'You know, this really sounds like a bluegrass song.' I read it and I thought the same thing. So after I wrote the music I emailed the song to his estate.
"The estate is one guy, a professor, and when when he heard the song he was thrilled. It was part of a group of poems that were meant to be songs, and it originally had music written by Benjamin Britten -- very atonal, 12-tone weird stuff and it was maybe great for 1935."
Martin has not given it a title yet, but planned to include it in his Stagecoach set.
-- Randy Lewis
Image: Steve Martin performs with the Steep Canyon Rangers on the Mustang Stage at the Stagecoach Country Music Festival in Indio. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times