Monday, November 7, 2011

Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

   It was 1979. The Police had just released their second album, Reggatta de Blanc. This was cutting-edge music. Some called it 'new wave', others 'punk'. It seems like pretty fluffy stuff by today's standards. Trust me, parents feared it as much as rap today.  I was 18 or 19 and like a lot of youth, of even today, the music I listened to was the soundtrack to my life. I made a decision to stick with the folksy- Americana-Bluegrass over the newer progressive tunes of the Police and the like. I went to a few Grateful Dead shows, a few local bluegrass festivals and I was hooked. What could be more fun than 'kicking shit' (dancing) and drinking beer to some down-home music that could make anyone feel good, even when they were singing about the darkest days of life?
  One friend had a recording of  'Will the Circle be Unbroken', a compilation of country/bluegrass music by the best in the genre, including: Roy Acuff, Mother Maybelle Carter, Doc Watson, Earl Scruggs, Merle Travis, Bashful Brother Oswald, Norman Blake, Jimmy Martin, and others.
   I wore that album out. As far as I am concerned, along with The Band's, 'Last Waltz',  it is the best recording of music by a group of musicians that exists. Oh Brother, Where Out Thou, is in the mix, but a definite third place.
    So when the opportunity arose to go to the NGDB concert, I did not even hesitate.
    I've always felt they never got their due. They are mostly known for their cover of 'Mr. Bojangles'. (Yes, they did play it.) But they wrote great songs like, An American Dream, The Long Hard Road, Modern Romance, Fishing in the Dark, and co-wrote Bless the Broken Road, to name a few. They have morphed over a dozen times through the years. The band included: Bob Carpenter; keys, Jimmie Fadden; drums, harmonica, Jeff Hanna; guitar, lead vocals and John McEuen; playing every conceivable string instrument known to modern man. I admit, I did miss Jimmy Ibbotson, with his  California-surfer-good looks, albeit, aged. I saw him playing solo a few years back and he was advertised as "Jimmy Ibbotson, formally of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band... " You know without the tie to the mentioned band it would have been, "Jimmy, who?"
     In between the divorce and has-been jokes they delivered a balance of old and newer and threw in a couple Jimmy Martin tunes (My Walking Shoes don't fit me any more) for good measure. Yes, they are a bunch of old hippies but they are talented old hippies. 
     I figured they must have known I was there because they did a cover of The Weight, by the Band, during their encore. The cherry on  top. This music is still the soundtrack to my life. But only on weekends, I swear.

This group has been playing together for 45 years. I hope they have many more. Can you say 'Pappa John Creech'?
(Thanks, Denise.)

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