Steep Canyon Rangers and Boyz II Men might seem like strange musical bedfellows on paper, but they work well together on a remake of SCR’s “Be Still Moses.” The song, which premieres exclusively on Billboard below today (Aug. 27), is featured on the bluegrass band’s upcoming orchestral album.
SCR’s Graham Sharp tells Billboard that the “leap of faith” pairing was the brainchild of the album’s producer, Michael Selverne. The producer tapped arranger Michael Bearden — a mutual friend of Selverne and Boyz II Men’s manager Joe Mulvhill — to connect the parties.
“[Selverne’s] idea from the start was to get guest singers on there,” Sharp tells Billboard. “We tossed around a couple of names, and he thought we needed a vocal group on it. He said he was going to approach Boyz II Men, and we all look at each other on the bus like, ‘What is he talking about? This is insane!’ We trusted him to make it happen, and the [recording] came back and just blew everybody’s mind.”
After receiving the track from Selverne, Boyz II Men recorded 16 tracks of vocals over the “Be Still Moses” arrangement, blending with the SCR’s baritone Woody Platt and the bluegrass band’s hometown Asheville Symphony and boosting the track’s spiritual flavor. “We are drawn to music that moves us,” Boyz II Men’s Wanya Morris says. “When we heard [‘Be Still Moses’] we were like, ‘Hold on. We have to get on this!'”
Bandmate Nathan Morris adds that the partnership “sounds crazy, but to us good music is good music no matter what genre.” Boyz II Men’s Shawn Stockman further notes, “We always get this chill when we know we are in the right place and we got a few chills working on this project.”
For SCR’s part, Sharp says, “It’s just so gratifying to have a group like Boyz II Men, which has so much success in their own right, on this. You can tell they put their minds and they put their hearts into it. Without that, it wouldn’t have gotten anywhere.”
SCR, which has won three International Bluegrass Music Association Awards and a Grammy and also works as Steve Martin’s band, is planning to release the orchestral album during early 2020 via Yep Roc Records. The set features new and what Sharp calls “reengineered” renditions of the North Carolina sextet’s songs, with “Be Still Moses” hailing from 2007’s Lovin’ Pretty Women album.
“When we recorded it the first time it was really in a bluegrass context,” Sharp says. “But, we always heard it with a different feel, a more soulful, swinging thing than the bluegrass we did originally. We threw it around in the studio with Michael Bearden and landed in a good place with it. It’s a song we hadn’t played in 10 years up ’til we went back and recorded it. It wasn’t forgotten but it definitely had been set aside for awhile. So it’s nice to bring it back like this.”
SCR has headline and festival dates booked throughout the fall, as well as shows on Steve Martin and Martin Short’s ongoing comedy tour — including a tour in Australia during November.