Our friends have a house right near the Stone Mountain Arts Center, the performance space Carol Noonan has started up in Maine, and were nice enough to invite us up to see the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band this Friday (5/13).
As they do for many people, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band symbolizes a milestone in my appreciation of music due to their genius crossover project: 1972's May the Circle Be Unbroken. This exposed me and others of my generation to a world of music that we wouldn't necessarily have heard otherwise.
They've been around for 50 years now themselves, and the concert in Maine was the actual 50th anniversary of their first playing together. Their personnel has cycled a bit over the years, but the current iteration is drummer and harmonicist Jimmy Fadden, singer (and guitarist) Jeff Hanna, keyboardist and singer Bob Carpenter, and John McEuen (who played mandolin, banjo, fiddle, and lap steel last night). Jimmy and John sang too, but it was mainly Jeff leading the vocals.
Drove up after work on Friday and had some time to yuck it up a bit with our friends before heading over to Brownfield. The lobby/waiting area was already pretty full when we arrived, and McEuen was working the room like a politician, posing for pictures and kissing babies (well, he probably would have if the situation had come up ... mostly older people there you know).
Got ushered into the main dining/performance area in our time and had a great table and a fine meal. Several drinks were imbibed, and some good food was eaten. Then the Dirt Band came on and entertained the heck out of us.
Fadden was the star of the night to my ears. His tone on harmonica was perfect and echoed with my memories of how that same tone had played around the vocals of Roy Acuff, the guitar of Doc Watson, the deep bass of Johnny Cash, the soprano of Alison Krauss, and the sublime fiddling of Vassar Clements on the Circle records (they did two sequels as well as the epic first).
They had an accompanist on guitar and bass as well as the core four, and they kept up a great pace all night, though McEuen showed signs of tiring at some points and Hanna sometimes failed to lead the band as consistently as one might want. Oh well, the point is that they're the quintessential hippies and their music is a mixed bag. Dig it or not. And the full house basically really dug it!
Short ride back after that, stayed up a bit and talked, then to bed after a long day.