Music News & Reviews

Playing never gets old for Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

A decade ago, a member of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s merchandise team came up with a “50 Years of Dirt” T-shirt, even though the band formed in 1965. The shirt features a long-haired fan in a wheelchair.

“We thought it was a funny idea,” vocalist-percussionist Jimmie Fadden said while calling from Denver. “Fifty years is a long time.”

The country-folk-rock act is only four years away from the half-century mark. The band’s longevity is part of what separates it from most of its peers.

“It’s not easy to be playing together for this long,” Fadden said. “A lot of bands have friction at some point, and we just have had fun, for the most part. We really enjoy playing with each other. We’ve been extremely fortunate to be able to have success in art and commerce. We’ve also had a gradual rise. I saw a lot of guys in bands overwhelmed by their success. We’ve been this steady, workman-like band that has had its share of success, but we’ve never been bowled over by that fame tidal wave.”

The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, which will perform in a benefit concert Sunday at the Bartlett Arboretum in Belle Plaine, has hit the charts with “Fishin’ in the Dark” and “Baby’s Got a Hold on Me,” among other songs.

“We’ve had some airplay,” Fadden said. “There are favorite songs that our fans want to hear, and that’s always a good thing. We’ve enjoyed the benefits of being creative.”

The group continues to make new music. The band, which also includes vocalist-guitarist Jeff Hanna, keyboardist Bob Carpenter and multi-instrumentalist John McEuen, is touring behind its EP “Under the Big Tent,” which was released last spring.

“There’s no reason to stop when you’re inspired,” Fadden said. “We’re going to keep on making new music. We enjoy it immensely. It’s fun to play new material live.”

Count on the Dirt Band to also render plenty of vintage cuts.

“People ask me how can we continue to play the older stuff over and over, and I say that it’s like pitching,” Fadden said. “I’m throwing the same pitches, but I’m trying to throw that perfect game every night we play out. We feel like the pitcher, and the audience is the hitter. It’s an exercise in disciple, and it’s the most fun I think I can have. It never gets old.”