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Stagecoach 2012: Steve Martin goes whole hog in Indio

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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.

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-- Randy Lewis


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