Rolling Stone - "[S]mart and stately, full of detailed craft and unfussy intimacy. Renaissance man Martin has long since his proven his deep chops as a bluegrass banjo picker..."
Personnel: Nathaniel Kunkel (banjo); Ann Marie Simpson, Cindy Wu, Abby Khalek, Rachel Kim (violin); Koyo Kim (viola).
Audio Mixer: Nathaniel Kunkel.
Recording information: Groovemasters, Santa Monica, CA (01/23/2015-06/07/2015); Remote Control Productions, Santa Monica, CA (01/23/2015-06/07/2015); Snowed Inn Studios, New Canaan, CT (01/23/2015-06/07/2015).
Photographer: Danny Clinch.
Steve Martin picked up his banjo again in 2009, recording his first-ever all-instrumental album with his Steep Canyon Rangers, and then he wound up devoting the better part of the next half decade to the instrument he loved since a teenager. Never shy on-stage, he nevertheless wasn't a natural frontperson, so once he ran through two albums with the Rangers, he joined forces with Edie Brickell, an unexpected but natural fit. Bluegrass may not have been in Brickell's vocabulary per se but she's an old versatile folkie comfortable with an array of Americana, something proven out by her new millennial group the Gaddabouts. When Brickell teamed with Martin, they found a common folk-pop ground assisted by producer Peter Asher on 2013's Love Has Come for You, and its 2015 sequel So Familiar is indeed a sequel: it offers more of the same, more of the tasteful dance numbers and romanticism heard on the first. This is hardly a bad thing. Martin and Brickell have an easy, natural chemistry, with Edie helping to focus Steve's nimble, graceful playing while the banjoist returns the favor by loosening up the singer, so she doesn't seem as precious as she sometimes did with the New Bohemians. While the duo sometimes sneaks a glance toward yesterday -- "Another Round" rambles forward like a square dance and "Way Back in the Day" makes its nostalgia plain -- this is unapologetically well-tailored contemporary music, drawing upon the traditions of Kentucky and Laurel Canyon to create something gentle, pretty, and substantive, something that is as enchanting as it was the first time around. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine