Steep Canyon Rangers ride to MerleFest

By Anna Oakes (

Article Published: Apr. 26, 2012 | Modified: Apr. 28, 2012
Steep Canyon Rangers ride to MerleFest

North Carolina’s Steep Canyon Rangers make the ‘pilgrimage’ to MerleFest this weekend.

Photo submitted

Since forming in college at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill in the ’90s, the Steep Canyon Rangers have climbed the ranks of bluegrass fame and notoriety.

The quintet was named Emerging Artist of the Year by the International Bluegrass Music Association in 2007, and last year, its collaborative effort with comedian and banjo player Steve Martin earned the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Entertainers of the Year award.

The Western North Carolina-based band has performed at such festivals as Bonnaroo, Telluride and RockyGrass and appeared on “Late Night with David Letterman,” “The Colbert Report” and “A Prairie Home Companion.”

But the band still considers it an honor to step onto the Watson Stage at MerleFest for the third time this Friday, April 27, during the festival’s 25th year on the campus of Wilkes Community College.

“MerleFest was the main goal for a bluegrass band that starts in North Carolina,” said Woody Platt, guitarist for the Rangers. “It means a lot to our band.”

The Rangers appeared at MerleFest two years ago as part of their tour with Martin, performing songs from Martin’s album, “The Crow.” Their collaborative album with Martin, “Rare Bird Alert,” debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Bluegrass Chart in March 2011.

This year, the MerleFest audience will hear brand new original material from the band, which recently released “Nobody Knows You.” While the band continues a solid bluegrass sound, each new work nudges a bit more in the progressive direction than the last, Platt said.

“I think it’s a slightly new direction,” Platt said about the new album. “We’ve focused on the real traditional approach, but each one tends to get a little more complex.”

And although the Rangers’ shows are never short on laughs, especially when they’re with Martin, the musical performance is most important to the quintet.

“We’re smiling and laughing and we’re having fun, but our show is really about the music,” Platt said.
Catch the Steep Canyon Rangers on the Watson Stage at MerleFest at 3:30 p.m. Friday, April 27.

For more information on the Steep Canyon Rangers, visit

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