Quantcast
Advertisement
 Email

 First Name

 Last Name

 Company

 Country
CAPTCHA code
Captcha: (type the characters above)

THE ACMS: MOSTLY LIVE AND REALLY REAL
Moving in the right direction (9/18a)
2020 EIGHT-MONTH MARKETSHARE SCORECARD
Interscope #1 in latest power rankings (9/17a)
WASSERMAN SEALS THE DEAL
But what's behind door #2? (9/17a)
SURFACES LEVEL UP
Peaking at just the right time (9/18a)
NEAR TRUTHS: HERE'S THE DEAL (AND THE ROAD AHEAD)
This column pairs well with BBQ sauce. (9/15a)
GRAMMY TALK
We're full of it.
AFRICAN POP
Getting global with it.
IT'S PRETTY SMOKY
And this time it's not from our bong.
WHAT COMES AFTER TIKTOK?
Shorter videos! Weirder trends!
Music City
DIRT BAND’S CIRCLE EXTENDS TO WARNER NASHVILLE PATIO
9/29/16

By Holly Gleason

Pictured (l-r): NGDB’s Jimmie Fadden, manager Steve Schweidel, WB's Justin Luffman, the band’s Jeff Hanna, Espo, bandmembers John McEuen and Bob Carpenter

Jeff Hanna stood on the makeshift stage erected for the final installment of Warner/Reprise Nashville’s monthly Pickin’ on the Patio afternoon concert series and talked of The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s run of country successes, setting up a song by a young writer named Kix Brooks, the plaintive misadventure du couer #1 “Modern Day Romance.” Like much of the storied roots/pop band’s history, their hit broke ground for others.

If the Dirt Band never found superstardom like their peers Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt or the Eagles, the career of the little jug band from Long Beach, California, has seamlessly spanned folk-pop, rock, country and now Americana over the past half century. That legacy inspired Warner Chief Marketing Officer Peter Strickland to celebrate the release of Circlin’ Back: Celebrating 50 Years of Dirt with a patio concert that saw WBN chief John Esposito, along with VPs Justin Luffman, Scott Hendricks, Cris Lacy, Kristen Williams, Chris Palmer and Wes Vause, WB vet Neal Spielberg, publishing icon Pat Higdon and WME’s Mark Raidor come out for the Dorian Gray time warp.

Opening with a chiming rendition of Dylan’s “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere,” from the triple Grammy-winning Will The Circle Be Unbroken, Vol. 2, the Dirt Band seems like the heir apparent to Levon Helm’s piece of The Band, soaking in the ambience as well as the chord changes to create an authentic stew of bluegrass (Will the Circle Be Unbroken), Cajun funk (“Bayou Jubilee”), psychedelia (“Buy for Me the Rain”), twang rock (“Tulsa Seems Like Trouble to Me”), country (“Dance Little Jean”) and folk (their breakthrough “Mr. Bojangles”).

With multi-instrumentalist John McEuen wielding his banjo like a saber, the original Circle’s “My Walking Shoes Don’t Fit Me Anymore” – recorded with bluegrass titan Jimmy Martin -- was a rural rave that inspired full-on hoedown dancing among the many young 20-somethings. As Mumford & Sons, the Avett Brothers and The Lumineers emerged as a force, millennials respond to the NGDB’s old school chops with abandon.

That youth appeal for the veteran band prompted Strickland to distribute the Country Music Association Album of the Year winners’ live from the Ryman set that includes Browne, Alison Krauss, Sam Bush and John Prine. “If you look back there's a handful of talent that withstands the test of time, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band is one of them,” he said. “It's been a pleasure and honor to be part of many years of their career.”

The zeitgeist has never eluded the band. Drummer/harmonica icon Jimmie  Fadden‘s 1985 classic “Workin’ Man (Nowhere to Go),” the confession of a downsized American with no prospects, was as timely today as it was when the band performed it on Willie Nelson, Neil Young and John Mellencamp’s original Farm Aid, while “Fishin’ in the Dark,” co-written by Wendy Waldman and current bass player Jim Photoglo, elicited the loudest singalong, especially from those 20- and 30-somethings.

Transcendence can’t be aspired to, it’s more the state of immersing completely in what one does. For the Nitty Gritty Band, that means the translucence of doing what they do for “the sake of the song and the sheer joy of playing,” as their Circle Two liner notes explain.

With Hanna and keyboardist Bob Carpenter trading verses on their now signature gospel standard “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” the hippie band that built a bridge to old country in the ’70s with the three-record set of the same name that featured Roy Acuff, Maybelle Carter, Doc Watson and Earl Scruggs—took a few hundred jaded Music Row execs and hopefuls to church.

In a scant 45-minute set, the NGDB proved that although there are bigger names and flashier acts, few of them have a bigger heart. In a Nashville razing its past at warp speed, the idea of real musicians playing actual songs shouldn’t be revolutionary, but it was. In this post Bro-Country age, it showed why the band’s still here, and also why, generation after generation, people step into the circle they’ve drawn.