From the earliest days of his comedy career, Steve Martin has incorporated the banjo into various aspects of his act, and fellow banjo players have spoken with reverence of his skills for decades. But in recent years he has put a renewed focus on the instrument, and he won a Grammy for his album The Crow in 2010. Rare Bird Alert came along a year later, and it's a full-fledged country/bluegrass album consisting entirely of Martin originals and recorded in collaboration with the Steep Canyon Rangers.
However hard and commendably he tries, Martin is a comedy performer at heart. Andrew Mueller 2011 Steve Martin is not the only Hollywood star to have attempted a serious country album in recent years – this furrow has also been ploughed by Billy Bob Thornton (actually not bad) and Tim Robbins (heart-stoppingly dreadful). Martin, to judge by his expansive and somewhat overly self-deprecating sleeve-notes of Rare Bird Alert, is both nervous about presenting his credentials in this arena, and grimly aware that the record has next to no chance of being judged on its own merits.