The contemporary folk pair return with a second album, this time with added theatricality which might not appeal to everyone
Best known for his comedic acting, Steve Martin’s passion for the banjo has surfaced in recent years. His work with the Steep Canyon Rangers has showcased his love of bluegrass and 2013’s collaboration with singer-songwriter Edie Brickell, Love Has Come For You, introduced a more contemporary folk sound. So Familiar sees him reuniting with Brickell and many of the songs on the album also feature in the musical Bright Star.
You can hear this theatrical style throughout. In some cases it lends an easy, winsome charm to tracks such as I Had A Vision and My Baby. Elsewhere this stage-ready sound doesn’t work quite as well, with both I Have You and Mine All Mine in particular coming across as overly twee. Much of the record sits somewhere in the middle and will please as many people as it will put off.
Martin’s banjo style isn’t of the rollicking kind. Instead it is comfortable and pillowy, allowing Brickell’s expressive voice to shine. There is an obvious and strangely romantic chemistry between the pair which as banjo and vocals intertwine. All of this sounds like damning So Familiar with faint praise, and though that may be true in parts fans of the duo’s first album will again find much to enjoy here.
Verdict: Pleasant enough without ever sounding essential