Review: A night of virtuosity with the Steep Canyon Rangers


By James Harrison

Is there anything left to write about Steep Canyon Rangers?

The Grammy-wielding masters of bluegrass returned to Asheville Saturday, playing the first set of a two-night run at The Orange Peel to a sold-out crowd. They were incredible, as usual.

It took no time for the Rangers to get comfortable, playing to a room of friends, family and fans—many of whom voted their recent LP, Tell The Ones I Love, the top record of 2013 in a WNCW poll. The band played for nearly three hours, taking few moments to break.

The songs seemed to flow effortlessly—anchored by the addition of light percussion for the first time. The group was joined mid-set by mandolin-legend Sam Bush, who happily picked along with several Rangers songs, a Bob Dylan cover, and a few numbers of his own.

Having toured extensively over the past year, the Rangers repeatedly expressed joy in the chance to play once more for a hometown crowd. The audience returned the sentiment, cheering loudly at references to Buncombe County, Graveyard Fields and Asheville town. To make things better, a portion of the proceeds from this weekend’s shows are being donated to Vance Elementary and Evergreen Charter School.

The night was full of virtuosity and incredible moments—from mandolin face-offs between Bush and Mike Guggino to fiddle player Nicky Sanders tearing through samples of popular songs (along with the hairs of his bow). Banjo player Graham Sharp offered a shout out to the fans who had come together to hear the band play through their songs, many of which have become an integral part of the soundtrack to life in Western North Carolina over the past decade.

“The Orange Peel in Asheville,” he said. “No better place in the world to play.”

The Steep Canyon Rangers play the Peel again tonight, and if you have a ticket consider yourself lucky.

The show’s sold out.