April 24th, 2019

Nitty Gritty Dirt Band celebrating 50-year entertainment milestone

By Chris Brown on October 5, 2017.

NEWS FILE PHOTO Jeff Hanna, left, and Bob McEuan of the Nitty Girtty Dirt Band feel the music as they perform before a sold-out crowd at the Esplanade in October 2014. The band will be back for two shows at the Esplanade on Oct. 16 and 17.


“The life I love is making music with my friends.”

Willie Nelson sang those words nearly 40 years ago, but Jeff Hanna and the guys in the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band have been living them for even longer.

“To be honest in ’67 when we started this we were a bunch of teenagers not looking that far down the road,” vocalist and guitarist Jeff Hanna told the News last month. “I think when we got to like 20 years in, it was like ‘we’re really lucky to be able to do this.'”

The band will perform at the Esplanade at 8 p.m. on Oct. 16-17. What began as a one-show stop quickly became a two-show stop. Both are sold out.

A band can make a lot of music with 50 years in the business and NGDB has been celebrating the milestone. The two-disc set “Anthology,” which came out Sept. 29, is the third retrospective album the band has released. It follows the concert album “Circlin’ Back: Celebrating 50 Years” and “Fishin’ in the Dark: The Best of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band,” both of which were released in the past year. “Anthology” goes all the way back to the first single “Buy For Me the Rain” and right up to “The Resurrection” from the band’s 2015 album “Speed of Life.”

“It’s a pretty good timeline for our band and I’m proud of the record and folks will enjoy it,” Hanna said.

While the record company wants hits, the band wanted to go deeper into its catalogue.

“My favourite records that I owned had more than just the hits on them, so for that reason we wanted to go a little deeper,” Hanna said. “A lot of these songs are tunes that … they don’t get played on the radio necessarily, they’re a little more adventurous lyrically and musically than some of the other stuff perhaps. I’m a fan of albums. It’s like living on dessert, there’s only so much chocolate cake you can eat. Eventually you want to go for something a little more nutritious. We just wanted again to sort of reflect a broader spectrum of what our band is about. I wish it was 50 or 60 tracks. There’s a bunch I wish were there.”

There are a lot of songs from NGDB’s “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” trilogy, the Grammy-winning “The Valley Road,” what Hanna called signposts and high points for the band and songs the band loves and thinks are badass.

“‘Tennessee Stud’ with Doc Watson from the first ‘Circle’ record is on there and it’s always been one of my favourites.”

There’s also a fair selection of radio-friendly hits like “Mr. Bojangles” and “Fishin’ in the Dark.” But one of the band’s biggest hits was left on the cutting room floor. “Cadillac Ranch” didn’t make the album cut but it’s on the setlist for the tour.

“We will be playing ‘Cadillac Ranch,'” Hanna assured, adding the band is “really excited to see our pals in Canada and really happy that we’re going to do two shows in Medicine Hat.”

Alberta-born singer-songwriter JJ Shiplett will open the shows.

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