The Steep Canyon Rangers Pickin’ at the Knight’s Theater
Western North Carolina is home to one of the best Bluegrass Bands around. The Grammy Award winning, Steep Canyon Rangers live in the beautiful mountain town of Brevard,NC. Woody Platt, Graham Sharp, and Charles Humphrey III formed the group in 2000 while they were students at the University of North Carolina. Later on Mike Guggino, Nicky Sanders, and most recently Mike Ashworth came together to form the current lineup.
The Rangers made a pitstop in Charlotte this week at the Knight’s Theater. The Sunday night show was rescheduled from a show that was cancelled due to a storm that hit North Carolina a few weeks ago. I had the opportunity get in early and watch their soundcheck as the boys were setting up and trying out some new songs. Tall, thin, and cool, Woody rambled over to greet me and welcomed me to the show. He introduced me to the rest of the band, and they all turned around and said “hi Jimmy.” I could tell the group takes their performance seriously. They were trying new sound setup and were very intent on making sure the sound in their ears was fine tuned. They got it dialed in, and headed backstage to get changed and prepare for their performance.
I had a little time to explore the venue before the show. It was nice to explore the beautiful theater with no one in there but myself. I was able to stroll the aisles and get a feel for the show that was about to start. I also was able to sneak down front and met up with the Facebook Group Fans of the Steep Canyon Rangers group who was in attendance that night.After chatting with the group, I moved backstage again to try to take some photos of the band for their suit sponsors.
The band is sponsored by Hardwick Clothes. Hardwick is located in the little town of Cleveland, TN and is America’s oldest clothing maker. If you have watched any NFL and NHL games lately, you may have seen the handcrafted work of the suit company on their hosts. They also were featured at the Rio Olympics. They did provide the band some finely tailored handmade suits that they wear during their shows, and Woody wanted some photos to send to them. Unfortunately, Woody, Mike G., and CHIII were the only guys who had the right suits that night, so I was able to get a nice shot of the three of them backstage before the show.
This is the second time I have seen The Rangers in Charlotte. I was able to catch them last summer at the US National Whitewater Center, and one thing I noticed was the same at both shows. When the boys hit the stage, the crowd goes nuts. This week they played two sets during the evening hitting the fan’s favorite tunes supporting their latest album, Radio.
They showcased their skills as musicians as the beat generated by CHIII and his mountain man beard on bass and the fedora wearing Mike A. on the Box Kit kept the band rolling through their set. Woody’s smooth vocals and guitar playing harmonizing with Graham’s banjo picking set the stage all night.
Nicky on one side of the stage and Mike G. on the other, bookending the group, were blazing on the fiddle and mandolin. Who knew you could shred on a fiddle and a mandolin, but these guys do it every night. Once the curtain drops and the lights go up, the guys work in lockstep with one another. They engage each other like a band of brothers who know each ones next steps. With a quick glance at the others, they can all transition through a melody like they can read each other’s minds. These five men are some of the best musicians in the business and everyone in the house knew it. Their smoothly syncopated sounds entertained the veteran fans as well as the newbies to their sound that came out that night.
I had a chance to talk to folks during the intermission and after the show. Their fan base is strong in the area, and of course everyone was ecstatic about the show. I talked to some folks who had never seen them before as well. Everyone was impressed and they were already talking about when they could go see them again. Their next Charlotte show will be a special one.The Rangers will be playing with Steve Martin and Martin Short at Ovens Auditorium in April. Martin and the band connected in 2009 at a benefit show at Club Nokia in Los Angeles. They hit it off and have toured together and played shows at places like Bonnaroo and Carnegie Hall ever since. If you can get a chance to check the show out, you will be treated with some comedy and music.I haven’t had the pleasure to see them supporting Martin, but I hope to see them as they come through the area. It has to be great. The boys are hard at work on the road right now. It looks like they are booked up until August. There are plenty of dates to be able to get out and see some of the nice guys and best players in the music industry. They are a band not to be missed as they come to your town.