Thank the banjo gods for Steve Martin, because if he wasn’t hittin’ the strings in between eliciting laughter, Noam Pikelny may not have had a dueling banjo session on Letterman. The Punch Brothers banjoist took on the funnyman last year after winning Martin’s inaugural banjo prize, and it raised his stock—and the stock of his craft—significantly. No longer is Pikelny seen as a second-fiddle instrumentalist in acts like Nickel Creek, because the banjo is cool again. The A-list jokester even has a guest spot on Pikelny’s latest solo album, Beat The Devil And Carry A Rail. As long as the banjo remains the cause célèbre of guys like Martin, and Pikelny continues to play solid instrumental fare, this twangy sound’s bound to remain prominent in the music scene.