Nitty Gritty Dirt Band Celebrates 50 Years With New Album, First-Ever IBMA Performance
I have always found it a bit ironic that one of the most iconic American bands that plays bluegrass has its roots, not in the verdant hills of Appalachia, but in the shifting sands of sunny Southern California.
Note that I said “band that plays bluegrass” rather than “bluegrass band.” Because that’s what Nitty Gritty Dirt Band leader and co-founder Jeff Hanna calls them.
When the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band started playing together in 1966, the band’s unique brand of music didn’t have a name.
In fact, it is the founding members of NGDB that helped create what we call Americana music today by mixing elements of bluegrass, folk, mountain music, country and western and rock and roll into a sound that was uniquely, you guessed it, American.
“Even though, when we started in 1966 — me, Jimmy and John - we lived by the beach in Southern California, we were drawn to folk music. We called ourselves ‘folk puppies.’ We weren’t into surf music. We were lucky enough to get to see the Dillards, the Greenbriar Boys, even Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs,” he said in a phone interview from Raleigh, North Carolina, where the band was preparing for tonight’s first-ever appearance at the International Bluegrass Music Association‘s annual gathering.
“This was the stuff,” Hanna continued. “Geographically we were fortunate that we were in the right place. We couldn’t be in Deep Gap (North Carolina) hearing this music on a porch. The music came to us.”
Five decades later, those influences and many more can be heard on the band’s “Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Friends - Circlin’ Back: Celebrating 50 Years,” a CD/DVD recorded live at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, the mother church of country music. It was released on Sept. 30 on the band’s own NGDB Records LLC, distributed by Warner Music Nashville.
From country classics to deep cuts, the tracklist finds Hanna (guitars/vocals) and bandmates Jimmie Fadden (drums/harmonica/vocals), Bob Carpenter (keyboards/accordion/vocals) and John McEuen (banjo/fiddle/guitar/mandolin) swapping harmonies, trading solos, and shining new light on a catalog of vital, vibrant music.
Released in 1972, just six years after the group formed in Southern California, NGBD’s “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” paired the young band with legends like Roy Acuff, Doc Watson, Earl Scruggs and Mother Maybelle Carter.
Hanna says now the members of NGDB are bringing up the next generation of musicians.
Read more at the Huffington Post