"Our band is full of gratitude" Nitty Gritty Dirt Band set to play Saskatoon April 5th
by Scott Roos
“I'm one of the luckiest guys. I didn't set out even to play music for a living. I had other plans. I was going to be a teacher…. And (then) I met a bunch of guys when I was in my first year of college…. and we were off and running,” quipped Nitty Gritty Dirt Band singer/guitarist Jeff Hanna in a recent conversation with NSMZ.
It’s been five and a half decades of “luck” for the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. According to Hanna, it’s been a good run - one filled with more peaks, and less valleys. At least not very deep ones. There’s been iconic, chart topping songs, influential full lengths and collaborations. The collective works of the band is something to behold and they are still going strong. Plus they can, and always have been able to, play their asses off on any given night.
“Stuff has happened for us that I'm so grateful for. Talent and hard work can only take you so far and then there's this other thing, whatever that magical element is, and luckily we got brushed with some of that and I'm very grateful for it. I love doing this. I love playing music and I love to play my guitar and sing even when I'm not on the road,” Hanna continued.
Speaking of the road, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band will be playing Saskatoon’s TCU Place on Wednesday, April 5th. With the way tickets have been moving, you can tell that it’s going to be a packed house of appreciative fans. Of course, in this province, a staple of any self respecting barn dance is “Fishin’ In the Dark” and who could forget, Springsteen cover and classic line dance stomper “Cadillac Ranch”.
“I was on an airplane a few years back and was getting off the plane and this woman stopped me and she said ‘Excuse me. Are you jn the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band?" I said ‘Yeah’ and she said ‘Well, I teach middle school. I'm a dance teacher and I taught them all how to line dance to 'Cadillac Ranch',” recounted Hanna.
“I got a kick out of that. It's funny you're not really thinking of that when you're making a record. It's a cool thing to hear about afterwards”
Bringing things up to the here and now, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band is fresh off the release of their latest record Dirt Does Dylan, a collection of Bob Dylan covers regrooved in a way that only Hanna and company can. Dylan’s catalog runs deep. The band had a lot of tracks to choose from and the end result Hanna seems very satisfied with. This is not the band’s first rodeo. Each individual in the band comes from a unique background in terms of their influences and it shows.
“ (Making Dirt Does Dylan) was pretty organic. I'm really proud of our band. The guys in it are really great players. They are really intuitive players as well. So the ability to kind of put our stamp on things with the six (guys currently in the band) was pretty natural. It’s one of the things you get when you play in a band together this long,” Hanna continued.
Last year was also a milestone with the band’s seminal collaborative work Will the Circle Be Unbroken celebrating its 50th anniversary. To this day, this album is a touchstone for bluegrass musicians the world over. To be honest, with a career that spans five decades it’s hard to really narrow down The Nitty Gritty Dirt band. Are they rock? Are they country? Are they bluegrass? How do you even put together a cohesive setlist with everything they have accomplished in the amount of time that they’ve been around? We’ll just have to wait and see. Hanna’s given us some clues, though - something to look forward to.
“We got a pretty deep songbook so we try to dig in there a bit . We’ll do some bluegrass stuff, some Dylan stuff, some straight ahead can't get out of the building without playing it stuff like 'Fishin in the Dark'. (When it comes to our setlists) we're guys that like a combo platter. That's how we roll,” said Hanna.
"Being able to give people something they love and they can bond over and that they can agree on is pretty powerful stuff. It's profound. I'm pretty grateful for that. We all are. Our band is full of gratitude, trust me."