Saturday, November 18, 2017
Tampa Bay Music & Shows

Steve Martin, Edie Brickell combine for plucky, magical music at Mahaffey

RECOMMENDED READING


Steve Martin, as Steve Martin is wont to do, gets his first joke in early. The one-time Wild and Crazy Guy is a full-time banjo player these days — clawhammer style, for the diehard pickers out there — and his current album, Love Has Come for You, is an old-timey Americana gem made with wispy chanteuse Edie Brickell. He writes the plucky music; she pens the lyrics. Sort of like Elton John and Bernie Taupin, I say during a phone chat with both Martin and Brickell.

"Yes," he deadpans, "I get to wear the big sunglasses."

Steve and Edie — oh, they've heard the gags about that more than enough by now (kids, ask your parents) — talked about teaming on a project a couple of years ago. She's married to Paul Simon, a longtime friend of Martin's. Then, lo and behold, it actually happened: "I write a song on the banjo and then Edie takes that and puts a vocal melody over that," says Martin, 67. "There are always two melodies going on."

To support the delicate, tuneful album, which has been a surprise hit on the Billboard charts, Brickell, who still talks and sings like a la-di-da Texas flower child even at age 47, will join Martin and his Steep Canyon Rangers band on a summer tour, which stops at a sold-out Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg on Thursday. It's a sweet, organic, gently sexy pairing, not unlike the May-December creative union of Robert Plant and Alison Krauss from a few years ago, although this is far more steeped in bluegrass.

"I've just been so inspired," says Brickell, who many will remember as the hushy, lilty singer of the 1988 hit What I Am with the New Bohemians. "I've had to alter my thinking and just let my imagination flow. The moment I heard his music, I started hearing stories. It took me back emotionally."

Martin was equally impressed in return. "I was blown away initially, and I keep getting blown away as the music continues to grow."

• • •

Martin took up the banjo at age 17, and although he incorporated his musical obsession into his standup act in the '70s and '80s, the instrument has always been the one place he could go where he wasn't necessarily STEVE MARTIN. "A friend told me the banjo thing is good for me because for once (when I'm around other musicians) I'm not the most important person in the room." He adds with mock haughtiness: "The most famous, but not the most important."

There's no ego connected, he says; if anything, it's constantly humbling. "Banjo is the one thing in my life that is completely different from everything else I do," he says. "I guess you could call it a solace. It was always a private thing. Like collecting art — I rarely talk about art." Then, with the dry timing of the comic master he is: "Well, except with you and the entire newspaper."

For the longest time, Martin wasn't sure he wanted to record and release a straightup banjo record. "There's always that thing where you don't want to be attacked for something," he says. "So there was a little hesitation. But that really doesn't bother me now. Before I do anything, I ask: Is there actually something to offer here? I think there is."

In 2009, he released The Crow: New Songs for the 5-String Banjo, which won a Grammy for best bluegrass album. It's intricate, authentic, but it's certainly not self-serious. There's even a comedy song, Late for School, that I tell Martin my daughters have demanded to hear hundreds of times — or at least as many times as I've watched his Thanksgiving epic Planes, Train and Automobiles. "I used to do (Late for School) in the show, but it was a lot of work remembering all those words." He laughs: "Now I make Edie remember the words."

Brickell is more than willing: "I like to sing songs that are fun. Why don't I do that more often?" What she won't be doing, however, is cooing any of her own songs on tour. When I say I'd love to hear her song Circle, especially with Martin's banjo accompaniment, there's a pause. Her voice is squirmy, cute: "Steve won't let me!" Martin jumps in: "Edie! We might at a later date. But we're still rehearsing our tunes." Brickell laughs, a fluttery little chuckle, and why not? She is working with Steve Martin, after all.

Sean Daly can be reached at [email protected] Follow @seandalypoplife on Twitter.

Comments
Flo Rida coming to Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg

Flo Rida coming to Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg

In 2016, Flo Rida headlined a free postgame concert for the Tampa Bay Rowdies at Al Lang Stadium.Come January, he'll have the place all to himself.The Carol City hitmaker will top a show at Al Lang on Jan. 14. St. Petersburg. native Macy Kate will al...
Updated: 13 minutes ago
Bluegrass and a traditional Thanksgiving meal on tap at annual Sertoma festival

Bluegrass and a traditional Thanksgiving meal on tap at annual Sertoma festival

SPRING LAKE — When it comes to traditional fare, picking, fiddling, harmonizing and a whole lot of foot-stomping make for the main course at the annual Thanksgiving Bluegrass Festival.Since 1980, the event, which will be Nov. 23 to 25 at the Sertoma ...
Published: 11/17/17
Two weeks after Tampa concert, rapper Lil Peep dies at 21

Two weeks after Tampa concert, rapper Lil Peep dies at 21

Lil Peep, a driving force in the young, ascendant, genre-blurring world dubbed "SoundCloud rap" or "emo rap," has died at 21, less than two weeks after performing at the Orpheum in Ybor City.TMZ reported the Long Beach, N.Y. rapper born Gustav Ahr di...
Published: 11/16/17
Randy Newman talks Dodger baseball, his ’70s collaborators, measuring himself against his peers and more

Randy Newman talks Dodger baseball, his ’70s collaborators, measuring himself against his peers and more

Randy Newman was always widely respected by his peers. But back in the '70s, it took him a while to accept he might never be as famous as his peers."I remember hearing Just the Way You Are in a hotel," he said in a recent phone interview. "I was tryi...
Published: 11/16/17
SoundBytes: Yonder Mountain String Band, Robb Banks, Datsik and more

SoundBytes: Yonder Mountain String Band, Robb Banks, Datsik and more

— Jammy bluegrassers Yonder Mountain String Band will make their annual pilgrimage back to Jannus Live on Jan. 25. Click here.— Also coming to Jannus Live: JJ Grey and Mofro with a stellar lineup, including the North Mississippi Allstars,...
Published: 11/15/17
Harry Belafonte to speak at the University of South Florida in Tampa

Harry Belafonte to speak at the University of South Florida in Tampa

Singer, actor and civil rights icon Harry Belafonte is coming to Tampa.The renowned cultural figure will speak at the University of South Florida on Jan. 16 as part of the school's student-run University Lecture Series. It'll take place in the Marsha...
Published: 11/15/17
Vans Warped Tour, a staple on St. Petersburg’s waterfront, ending after 2018

Vans Warped Tour, a staple on St. Petersburg’s waterfront, ending after 2018

For fans and bands alike, the Vans Warped Tour is a sweaty, smelly, screamy rite of summer.Every year, like clockwork, the fest swings through Tampa Bay, almost always at Vinoy Park in St. Petersburg, where hordes of tattooed teenagers, punks and met...
Published: 11/15/17
This week’s top Tampa Bay concerts: Randy Newman, Tiesto, Et Cultura, more

This week’s top Tampa Bay concerts: Randy Newman, Tiesto, Et Cultura, more

THE ENVELOPE, PLEASE: Randy NewmanOscar campaigns are nothing new for Randy Newman. For years, the iconic singer, songwriter and film composer was the most-nominated person in history without a win, until his 2001 trophy for the Monsters Inc. song If...
Published: 11/15/17
Randy Newman will never be a million-seller, and he’s fine with that

Randy Newman will never be a million-seller, and he’s fine with that

Maybe it’s fitting that the Los Angeles Dodgers didn’t win the World Series. Maybe it’s better that all of Southern California didn’t pop Champagne and celebrate as Randy Newman’s I Love L.A. blared through the Dodger St...
Published: 11/15/17
The Castle, Ybor City’s goth paradise, celebrates 25 years of darkness and weirdness

The Castle, Ybor City’s goth paradise, celebrates 25 years of darkness and weirdness

The Castle, the multi-story, gothic nightclub where it's not uncommon to see someone on the dance floor in a Batman cape, a leather corset or a Peter Pan costume — or really anything you can think of — turned 25 this year, which...
Published: 11/15/17