Thursday, 16 May 2013

Steve Martin and Edie Brickell - Love Has Come For You (Album Review 2013)

The contrasting duo of comedian, actor, and now accomplished bluegrass banjo player, Steve Martin and singer, songwriter Edie Brickell might seem an unlikely combination for a new album but proves to be a perfect match. Martin's love of the banjo started in his teenage years and he has been playing ever since, while Brickell started her musical life as part of New Bohemians and made one of the finest pop albums of all time, Shooting Rubber Bands At The Stars, before briefly going solo. She is now part of The Heavy Circles and The Gaddabouts so another collaboration was always inevitable. This new project: Love Has Come For You follows Martin's Rare Bird Alert (with the Steep Canyon Rangers), and the Grammy winning The Crow: New Songs For The 5-string Banjo, and the inclusion of Brickell's vocals adds character and charm to his music.

What makes Love Has Come For You such a charming and engaging folk album is that no part of it is over-done. The ever-present banjo is a core instrument but it never overwhelms or consumes the storytelling. And Brickell's voice soars and shines throughout, a controlling presence but never upstaging the music. The title track, for instance, is an understated three-minutes of wonder, tinged with darkness from another time and driven by gorgeous vocal harmonies and subtle percussion. The duo are continuously respectful and honest to the genre as Sarah Jane And The Iron Mountain Baby shows - a superb tale of a baby thrown from a train in a suitcase, found unharmed and raised against adversity. Both Martin and Brickell are playful and bring a sense of fun and energy to the seemingly macabre subject matter - even the odd train impersonations work as the banjo echoes the frantic wheels of the runaway engine. As an introduction, Yes She Did is a stark, cold and honest account of suicide, delivered without emotion. Opener When You Get To Asheville breathes modern life into a classic sound as Brickell asks '...send me an email', while Siamese Cat is more like something from her New Bohemian days. Both work in their different ways. Martin's best performance is Shawnee, a master-class of string work, as Brickell tells the story, that of a love-lost girl trying to avoid the advances of her 'creepy cousin'. And the heartfelt ballad of King Of Boys is simply wonderful, if way too short, providing Brickell's finest vocal. As the album closes, Love Has Come For You leaves one of its finest moments for last. Remember Me This Way is another song washed with dark cold tones, perfectly judged and uncomplicated.

Love Has Come For You often feels like music from a different era while remaining current and timeless, bringing old stories and forgotten souls back to life. It runs hot and cold, musically, with vibrant rhythms and energy making way for a darker, colder side. As musical collaborations go, this is a triumph of songwriting and execution. The combination of Martin and Brickell is so natural that you wonder why they haven't done this before and Love Has Come For You sounds like a partnership that has been years in the making.
-- CS

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