Published Oct 28, 2015Steve Martin might be a legend, but the comedian-turned-award winning bluegrass musician is smart enough to play second fiddle — or rather, backup banjo — to Edie Brickell in order to bolster one of Americana's most criminally underrated voices. So Familiar, their second collaborative album, is a more light-hearted affair than their more subdued 2013 debut, Love Has Come for You. And, true to the title of this sophomore LP, the duo's dynamic now seems all the more intuitive.
Martin cedes more of the spotlight to Brickell than ever, his strumming always sturdily present but rarely showy. Even his slyly rollicking, unaccompanied plucking on the opening title track's first moments are endearingly subtle. Brickell, meanwhile, belts out everything from brisk declarative verses to gentle lullaby coos, and everything in between. The duo's band also have plenty of moments to shine, like the belching horn on "Won't Go Back" and the kitchen party fiddles on "Another Round," making for some of the catchiest and most fun roots music of the year.
Martin occasionally steps to the forefront, as during his duet with Brickell on the tenderly impassioned ballad "I Have You," but even then, his singing serves as more of an affirming echo to her far more dynamic voice. But Brickell also brings out the best in Martin, revealing his subtlest strengths. (Rounder)