Steep Canyon Rangers aren't afraid to experiment with the tried-and-true forms of bluegrass, but on their latest song "Going Midwest," due to be included on their upcoming LP Out in the Open, the Grammy-winning group keeps things as spare as possible.
Written by banjo player Graham Sharp, "Going Midwest" was inspired by the closing scenes of The Great Gatsby when narrator Nick Carraway's plans to head home from New York City. The song's simple delivery – mostly Woody Platt and Mike Ashworth harmonizing and playing guitar together – was a bit of an accident. "It's a simple song, and we had tried it in all sorts of combinations with the band," says Sharp. "One day, backstage somewhere, Woody and Mike just found the sweet spot, and there was no question then how to present it: simply and honestly."
Sharp, Platt and Ashworth recorded the song in one take that was initially meant to be a dry run. As producer Joe Henry tells Rolling Stone Country, it was clear that they'd nailed it on the first try. “What I heard conjured before me that moment was not only rich, soulful and heartbreaking, but as well, rendered with a simplicity and humility that defies the deft artistry that allows it," he says. Listen to it below.
Additional behind-the-scenes video about the making of "Going Midwest" includes footage of the song's lone studio take, where you can see Sharp joining on harmonies midway through. Producer Joe Henry was similarly taken aback by the experience. "I said in the moment that, were this a song by Townes Van Zandt, it would be one of my favorites from his heroic cannon. It's that sharp; that deep and wide, and that quietly…generous," he says.
"Going Midwest" will be included on Out in the Open, which is their first with Ramseur Records and will be released January 26th. The album, which follows the September release of Steep Canyon Rangers' latest collaboration with Steve Martin, The Long-Awaited Album, is the North Carolina band's first stand-alone collection since 2015's Radio.
Steep Canyon Rangers play Newberry Opera House in Newberry, South Carolina tonight and have dates scheduled (including a few with frequent collaborator Steve Martin) through March.
Steep Canyon Rangers tour dates:
November 16 – Newberry, SC @ Newberry Opera House
November 17 – Atlanta, GA @ Variety Playhouse
November 18 – Florence, SC @ Francis Marion Univ PAC
December 1 – Roanoke, VA @ Jefferson Center, Shaftman Performance Hall
December 2 – Charlottesville, VA @ Jefferson Theater
December 7 – Annapolis, MD @ Rams Head on Stage
December 8 – York, PA @ Capitol Theatre at Appell Center for the Performing Arts
December 15 – Atlantic City, NJ @ Borgata Casino (with Steve Martin)
December 16 – Bethlehem, PA @ Sands Bethlehem Event Center (with Steve Martin)
January 12-13 – Chapel Hill, NC @ University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
January 18 – Fort Myers, FL @ Suncoast Arena (with Steve Martin)
January 19 – St. Petersburg, FL @ Mahaffey Theatre (with Steve Martin)
January 21 – New Orleans, LA @ Saenger Theater (with Steve Martin)
January 27 – Asheville, NC @ Explore Asheville Arena
February 1 – Knoxville, TN @ the Bijou Theatre
February 2 – Newark, OH @ Historic Midland Theatre
February 3 – Chicago, IL @ Lincoln Hall
February 8 – Charleston, SC @ Charleston Music Hall
February 9 – Chattanooga, TN @ Walker Theatre
February 10 – Winston-Salem, NC @ Reynolds Auditorium
February 23-24 – Greenville, SC @ Peace Center
February 25 – North Charleston, SC @ North Charleston Performing Arts Center
March 1 – Billings, MT @ Alberta Bair Theater
March 2 – Bozeman, MT @ the Ellen Theatre
March 3 – Spokane, WA @ Fox Theater
March 4 – Seattle, WA @ Neptune Theatre
March 14 – St. Louis, MO @ The Sheldon - Concert Hall
March 15 – Saint Joseph, MO @ Missouri Theater
March 16 – Jonesboro, AR @ Fowler Center
March 17 – Dayton, OH @ Victoria Theatre
March 22 – Jacksonville, FL @ Florida Theater
March 23 – Gainesville, FL @ University of Florida
March 24 – Clearwater, FL @ Capital Theatre
March 25 – Naples, FL @ Artis Naples
April 6-8 – Squaw Valley, CA @ WinterWonderGrass Festival
April 19 – Washington, DC @ the Hamilton
April 21 – Orono, ME @ Collins Center for the Arts
April 27 – Richmond, VA @ Maudlin Center for the Arts