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Gerald Carpenter: Steve Martin to Bring His Banjo, Bluegrass to Granada

The comedian will perform some serious string-plucking Friday night at The Granada

We have a rather special treat coming our way. Steve Martin — comedian, actor, writer, sometime man about this town — will perform at 8 p.m. this Friday, Oct. 8, at The Granada.

Though a joke or two will probably escape his lips during the course of the evening, this is not a comedy event, but a serious performance of the type usually called a concert. Martin and his banjo will be fronting an imposingly talented band from North Carolina called the Steep Canyon Rangers.

The show, presented by UCSB Arts & Lectures, is called “An Evening of Bluegrass and Banjo” — somewhat redundant, I think, because if there is a bluegrass without a banjo lurking somewhere in its midst, I have yet to hear of it, and if there is a banjo player who doesn’t play a lot of bluegrass … .

People who can do a lot of things amazingly well used to be called polymaths. Nowadays, if he is male, we say he is a very talented guy. One of the things Martin has always done very well indeed is to conceal the depth and range of his artistic abilities.

His principal comic persona — the lame white guy who thinks he’s the hippest of the hip — is a kind of mask he wears to move among people who would never talk to him if they knew how smart he was. He has unfolded himself gradually, too, instead of all at once. After he and his fellow travelers at Saturday Night Live had reinvented comedy, he moved onto the big screen as an actor with a series of hit comic extravaganzas, then as a serious actor in Grand Canyon and The Spanish Prisoner; as a screenwriter with Roxanne and L.A. Story; as a playwright (Picasso at the Lapin Agile); as a novelist (Object of Beauty); and now, his crowning achievement, as a bluegrass musician. (I don’t say “croning achievement” facetiously, since I believe that there is no greater joy available to humans than to play the music you love and get paid for it.)

His first all-music recording, The Crow: New Songs for the Five-String Banjo — made with the participation of Dolly Parton, Vince Gill, Earl Scruggs and others — won a 2010 Grammy for Best Bluegrass Album and spent 31 weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard bluegrass chart. Let’s hope happiness is contagious.

The general public can pay as much as $73 for Friday’s concert, or as little as $43. UCSB students pay $28. Click here or call the Arts & Lectures box office at 805.893.3535, or contact The Granada box office at 1214 State St. or 805.899.2222.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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