And how about Martin's banjo playing? Dude can definitely play. His right hand is quite good, crisp and precise, and while he's not going to win any picking contests with fifth-gear speed, he's got a distinctive style that's fittingly playful and smart. In a way, he has to be good. If he weren't, the whole thing could backfire terribly, and Martin knows it.

"I have to have confidence in my own music, or I wouldn't put it out there," he says. "I look at every song on the record and ask, 'Is this valid?' And I believe that every song is valid." He notes that his first record was nominated for six International Bluegrass Music Association awards and he's clearly proud of that accomplishment, but you can tell he really, at heart, just loves the music and wants to be considered a high-level musician: "I've been lucky to sort of transform myself," he says, "and I have met the best players in the world, and they've been very kind and nice to me."

Sam Pfeifle can be reached at sam_pfeifle@yahoo.com.

STEVE MARTIN AND THE STEEP CANYON RANGERS | with Tony Trischka | at Merrill Auditorium, in Portland | May 18 @ 7:30 pm | portlandovations.org

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