Steve Martin is a multi-talented performer. Over a long career, he has become famous for his wild comedic personas, and many movies (The Jerk, Father of the Bride, Cheaper by the Dozen). Less well-known nowadays is his prodigious banjo skill (which he has occasionally exhibited during a few of his numerous SNL appearances). His album The Crow: New Songs for the Five-String Banjo demonstrates his remarkable talent and his proficiency for the difficult 5-finger clawhammer playing style (involving down-picking with the fingers, rather than using picks). The album is full of gorgeous songs, with guests such as Dolly Parton and Earl Scruggs contributing.
“Daddy Played the Banjo” is the first song on the album and a strong opener. Tim O'Brien's delivery mixes well with Martin & Earl Scruggs' banjo work, with neither detracting nor distracting from the other. The narrative somehow manages to be both wistful and comforting without being schmaltzy. O'Brien sings of a child's memories of his father playing the banjo. Eventually, the child's father introduces him to the instrument, creating lasting memories. Towards the end of the song, we hear of music's power to evoke and solidify memories, even those that are just imaginary. Perfectly complementing the story are the instrumental banjo portions of the song, which are both memorable and distinctive. This song seems to be a perfect fit for a self-reflective playlist or perhaps for indulging in a bit of nostalgia.
The rest of the album is full of similarly high-quality songs, but with some variance in mood. It was very difficult to choose between “Daddy Played the Banjo” and “Freddie's Lilt,” a quicker but similarly superb Celtic-sounding tune. Other highlights include “Words Unspoken” and “Pitkin County Turnaround,” though there isn't a single dud in the album.