For comedian, actor, author and musician Steve Martin, 1981 was a pivotal year. It would signal the release of his final album of standup comedy and his first as a highly skilled banjo player in one LP, The Steve Martin Brothers. While it would be another 28 years before his first full-length album as a musician, Martin has continued to showcase that side of his multifaceted personality both on record and on tour, hitting the road with bluegrass band the Steep Canyon Rangers in recent years. In 2013, he first collaborated with singer-songwriter Edie Brickell on an LP called Love Has Come for You. That album not only inspired their tour and live record with Steep Canyon Rangers, it also gave birth to the Tony-nominated and Drama Desk Award-winning musical, Bright Star.
Set in the Twenties and Forties in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, the show starred Carmen Cusack (in a Tony-nominated performance) as newspaper editor Alice Murphy, telling her life story in a series of flashbacks set to an old-time country and bluegrass score. Upon its release, the cast recording of Bright Star topped Billboard’s Bluegrass chart and also earned spots on four other charts, including the Broadway, Americana/Folk, and the multi-genre Digital Albums and Billboard 200.
Performed by Carmen Cusack and the original Broadway cast, “Sun Is Gonna Shine,” as heard in the above lyric video, is the song that opens the musical’s second act. In spite of the various hardships encountered by the characters, it’s a bouncy, hopeful tune about the promise of a brighter future.
Bright Star‘s Broadway run was brief but Martin and Brickell have continued to collaborate. In 2015, they released So Familiar, which included their duet versions of some of the songs from Bright Star.
“It spoke to me and I just pulled the personality out,” Brickell told Rolling Stone Country of Martin’s banjo playing, which helped inspire her lyrics. “That came in the form of images and certain phrases. It just flowed through me and settled in my consciousness, and I paid attention and then understood where I was in the story and how to offer the rest of it. It’s basically just being flat-out inspired by someone’s gifts and skills.”
Later this month, Martin will play a trio of shows also featuring Steep Canyon Rangers and comedian Martin Short.