The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band Keep Rolling at ‘The Speed of Life’
The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band are proving 'The Speed of Life' is much more than just the title of their latest album.
Wasn't it just yesterday that the band's rendition of 'Mr. Bojangles' was playing on everybody's radio, Jackson Browne was a band member and Mother Maybelle Carter, Roy Acuff and Earl Scruggs were among the luminaries tapped to join in recording the legendary 'Will The Circle Be Unbroken,' trilogy? But don't think The Dirt Band is just another veteran act living on its musical laurels.
For one thing, members Jeff Hanna, John McEuen, Jimmie Fadden and Bob Carpenter all boast multiple industry awards. Credit their artistry, their love for music or their frequent collaborations -- such as with co-producers George Massenburg and Jon Randall Stewart on their latest album -- for The Dirt Band's fresh, vibrant sound.
"When you have played together 10 or 15 years, you do things a certain way to give people what they want," says Jeff, who founded the band in 1966. "In our case, we try to do that ... but this new chunk of material is like a transfusion of new blood. We did think about [concerts] when we were writing and choosing songs for this new album. We thought, 'How will this translate on stage?' 'Will this make the set more fun?'"
Anyone at the March 28 show in Alexandria, Va. already knows the answer.
As Jeff and other members chatted between songs – offering kudos to John for producing the 2009 Grammy Award winning Bluegrass Album of the Year, 'The Crow: New Song for the 5-String Banjo,' acknowledging former band member Les Thompson, who was seated in the audience, and reminiscing about pranks on the road – many audience members enthusiastically interjected comments.
"We don't care," yelled one woman as Jeff apologized for a benign slip of the tongue. "We love you!"
Clearly the affection was returned as the band slipped into a rousing version of their breakthrough hit, 'Mr. Bojangles.'
Prior to the show, Jeff credited The Dirt Band fans, who on this night in Alexandria included a lot of 20 and 30-somethings in the audience, with keeping the song fresh.
"When we are doing more of the vintage material, songs like 'Mr. Bojangles,' the energy for that performance really comes from the room," Jeff says. "We love what we get back from the crowd every night we sing that."
The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band have shows scheduled throughout the year. Click here for tour dates.