Here is the second collaborative album from Martin and Brickell, accurately named since the pair work so well together and here particularly it feels seamless – in fact Martin is essentially the sideman, could have gone unnamed; why then is it Steve Martin and Edie Brickell not Edie Brickell with Steve Martin? Oh well…
The connection, I assume, is some sort of SNL Whisky Club where Lorne Michaels, Steve Martin and Paul Simon sit around with a few other alumni and dream up schemes…We all know that Martin is no slouch as a player, his banjo long a part of his stand-up act, a comedy prop but he once had serious intentions. Now, as with his various writing ventures outside and away from film he has the time, talent and money to indulge. But this really feels like a perfect pairing.
Edie Brickell – married to Paul Simon – has progressed from the hippie-girl pop of the 1980s (I still love that Shooting Rubberbands album) to a voice that is pure Americana. So Martin sits in behind, and/or to the side and strums plaintively as Brickell sings songs that should appeal to Dixie Chicks fans, to Alison Krauss’ listeners, to anyone hooked on music by the likes of Rickie Lee Jones, Patty Griffin or the more recent work by Bonnie Raitt.
It’s the gentle pop-side of roots, admittedly. The sorts of songs that could end up soundtrack movies that star Anne Hathaway. But let’s not hold anything against this album – for the performances, earnest, heartfelt, polished but never soulless – give just what is required.
Their first album together was charming and thoughtful and, well, set the blueprint out for this really. But So Familiar is better. The dynamic established, the duo firm in what they are doing.