The Steve Martin Brothers

Steve Martin

1981/2006: Wounded Bird Records WOU 3477

  1. Cocktail Show, Vegas

    American Photography
    A Scientific Question
    What I Believe
    A Show Biz Moment

  2. Comedy Store, Hollywood

    The Real Me
    Love God
    Make the Rent
    The Gospel Maniacs

  3. Sally Goodin’
  4. Saga of the Old West
  5. John Henry
  6. Saga (reprise)
  7. Pitkin County Turn Around
  8. Hoedown at Alice’s
  9. Song of Perfect Spaces
  10. Freddie’s Lilt, Parts I and II
  11. Waterbound
  12. Banana Banjo

I’d hung onto a vinyl LP copy of this album for over 20 years just in case it never did get released on CD, but apparently last year someone finally gave its transfer the go-ahead, and as of September 2007 it’s making a very welcome addition to my CD collection.

Not that it’s a must-have or even a particularly great album—I just happen to love parts of it very much. Bits of the comedy, especially “Love God,” which includes the “so suave” “wild and crazy guy” persona with the quirky eastern-European accent commenting “and it’s a good idea to always have something nice to say to her parents, like ‘well, Mrs Johnson, I see where Lucy gets her tits! …and I see where they’re going to end up.” Or “What I Believe,” with its “and I believe that sex is one of the most beautiful, wholesome, and natural things…that money can buy.”

But it’s the banjo “side” of the album that I cherish it for. The album came out in 1981, but Martin’s playing takes me solidly back to a mid-1970s American summertime when I hear it. 1976? Possibly. The exact year is irrelevant, but 1976 did have that curious Bicentennial thrill refreshing things a bit. These songs are lush green grass and the warm air of a summer afternoon beginning to cool…a loose, folk-y white cotton shirt, blue jeans, and sandals…the scent of nearby fields, the feel that suppertime wasn’t far off and then a favorite TV show…playing Red Light Green Light in the yard at dusk…old stories about people who lived far, far away maybe before your grandfather was born…youth and easy anachronisms.

I’m especially fond of the “Song of Perfect Spaces;” what or where those perfect spaces are may be known only to Martin, but to me they are the intervals between the notes of the opening melody, which has a kaleidoscopic fascination about it. “Freddi’s Lilt” brings parallel flutes and a violin into play, like an American Folk version of chamber music. “Waterbound” fades in from an echoey distance and remains beautifully rustic and unfinished, like a bit of a story overheard as you’re drifting off to sleep. “Banana Banjo” closes the album with appropriate playfulness for this comedian-banjoist, dipping and diving all over the place and repeatedly veering off its stated course to what should be an obvious finish, instead arriving at a point surprisingly near the listener.