Nitty Gritty Dirt Band History with Jeff Hanna
It’s nearing the end of an hour-long conversation when the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s Jeff Hanna announces that he’s due for a shower before sound check. What’s intended to be a conversation about the group’s Circlin’ Back: Celebrating 50 Years CD/DVD package becomes a long trip through the outfit’s rich and sometimes tumultuous history. One might say that there have been various Nitty Gritty Dirt Bands and not just because of shifting personnel. What started as a jug band became a slightly more pop-oriented endeavor, then a stalwart supporter of country music traditions that appealed to a rock audience, then a mainstay country act that drew on a rock crowd. Today, one can easily view Hanna and his bandmates as standard bearers in the wide open ranges of Americana.
Though there are hit songs and influential albums, the real legacy of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band is probably in the unexpected ways it has smashed boundaries while celebrating tradition and embraced tradition while recognizing that music must change in order to stay alive. The evidence is there across Celebrating 50 Years, which finds the group joined by friends such as Jackson Browne, Jerry Jeff Walker, Vince Gill, Sam Bush, John Prine, Alison Krauss and former member Jimmy Ibbotson.