Grading the Top 10 in … BLUEGRASS!

1. Steve Martin & Edie Brickell, “Love Has Come for You” (Love Has Come for You)

Yes it’s THAT Steve Martin on banjo, and the singer is Brickell of the New Bohemians. Martin has been playing banjo since he was 17. He was taught by John McEuen of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, who played backup on Martin’s hit novelty song “King Tut.” Martin has focused more than ever in recent years on his bluegrass side career, touring with the Steep Canyon Rangers and establishing the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass in 2010, a $50,000 award for bluegrass musicians that he has awarded to less outrageously famous banjo players like Sammy Shelor and Noam Pikelny.

Grade: A

Best YouTube Comment: “I have been in love with her since she sang about hippy mushroom trips in the early 90′s lol she is fantastic beautiful voice and damn if Steve can calm the wild and crazy guy and pick that banjo like he was born with it in his hands!” — R Rich

2. Steven Curtis Chapman, “Hiding Place” (Deep Roots)

Chapman is a Christian music artist who normally makes pop-rock. Here he unplugs some of his biggest hits and turns them into sleepy sounding bluegrass versions. I actually prefer the original version of “Hiding Place” but that might just be me. Chapman’s album Deep Roots is available at Cracker Barrel!

Grade: C+

Best YouTube Comment: “I think I like this one better than the original recording” — IsaacDennis

 

3. Steep Canyon Rangers, “Nobody Knows You” (Nobody Knows You)

The Steep Canyon Rangers are a newish bluegrass act who have doubled as Martin’s backing band for his most recent bluegrass ventures.

Grade: B

Best YouTube Comment: “THIS is GREAT MUSIC! What a refreshing relief, to know that talented artists are still making great art in this day and age. Don’t be shy! If you like the music, LET THE WORLD KNOW!!!!!” — BiggieB99

 

4. Della Mae, “Empire” (This World Oft Can Be)

Della Mae is not one person, but five whole ladies, who recorded their major label debut, This World Oft Can Be, at Johnny Cash’s cabin in Tennessee. If there is any justice in this world, Della Mae will draw all the new neo-folk followers that have made Mumford & Sons into huge stars, and Taylor Swift fans who wish she had more jams like “Safe & Sound.” Della Mae deserves all the shine.

Grade: A

Best YouTube Comment: “Aren’t they fabulous!” — RichardBlondi

 

5. Old Crow Medicine Show, “Carry Me Back to Virginia” (Carry Me Back)

TRILL APPALACHIAN BANGER.

Grade: B+

Best YouTube Comment: “excellent work from a band who is finally getting the respect they deserve!!” — redscribe66

 

6. Dailey & Vincent, “Steel Drivin’ Man” (Brothers of the Highway)

A finger-picking barn burner from Rounder Records band Dailey & Vincent. How can anyone on earth possibly play that fast?

Grade: B+

Best YouTube Comment: “It truly saddens me that a video of such astounding musicianship and talent has only garnered a little over 2,000 views, while “artists” like Bieber and Chris Brown get millions. At least there are a few of us who appreciate good music when we hear/see it!” — ZacharyFoxx

 

7. Dave Adkins & Republik Steele, “That’s Just the Way I Roll” (That’s Just the Way I Roll)

Is this … nu-metal bluegrass? Nu-grass? Blue-metal? Dave Adkins can SANG and has a lovely Bob Seger quality to his voice. Would love to hear this band cover The Bob Seger System’s ’69 stomper “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man.”

Grade: A-

Best YouTube Comment: “cool! real bluegrass spirit…” — LexNorth

 

8. Steve Ivey, “I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow” (Best of Bluegrass Collector’s Edition: Steve Ivey)

You can’t really fuck up this song.

Grade: B-

Best YouTube Comment: “I love this song. I sing it all the time.” — MICHaeLDalLaS

 

9. Old Man Markley, “Blood on My Hands” (Down Side Up)

LOL this is on Fat Wreck Chords, the San Francisco label that is home to NOFX and Screeching Weasel. It’s punk bluegrass, kind of like the Dropkick Murphys are punk Celtic folk.

Grade: B

Best YouTube Comment: “I didn’t like it all so much at the first listen, but I’m almost at the verge of tears for some reason right now. It just feels right. Plus it’s in my favorite key. Long live OMM.” — OakRidgePunk777

 

10. Dailey & Vincent, “Eternal Vacation” (The Gospel Side of Dailey & Vincent)

Also available at Cracker Barrel! Cracker Barrel is the Starbucks of bluegrass. Buck Owens wrote this song with his mom, Maicie Owens, and it’s perfect.

Grade: A

Best YouTube Comment: “Great music! Reminds me of the Louvin Brothers” — GlendaPounds

Filed Under: Grading the Charts, Steve Martin

Photo on 2014-01-10 at 12.58 #3

Molly Lambert is a staff writer for Grantland.

Archive @ mollylambert