Nitty Gritty Dirt Band,
Speed of Life
(Sugar Hill, 2010)

This CD, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's first in eight years, is a huge step forward ... which they took by looking backwards.

In the 1970s, they made a series of classic albums that meshed their southern California hippie mentality with Nashville to come up with something brand new, a blend of folk, rock, country and bluegrass that was instantly identifiable as Dirt Band music. That experimentation with styles led to the Will the Circle Be Unbroken albums, three collection of the best of the traditional and contemporary country artists joining together to celebrate the music. It says a lot about the Dirt Band that they provided wonderful accompaniment for everybody on those albums, no matter what age, style or type of music the guest artist played. They were equally convincing backing Roy Acuff and Jimmy Martin as they were playing with John Hyatt or Rodney Dillard.

After a period spent successfully chasing hit singles on the country charts, the Dirt Band spears to be going back to what made the raw, enthusiastic, rough-hewn and down-home music that comes so beautifully to them. With Speed of Life, producers George Massenburg and Jon Randall Stewart told the band that what they wanted to do was make a "hippie album." The band agreed and the result is one of their best ever. It shows their versatility off with songs ranging from country ballads to bluegrass to uptempo rockers and Cajun swamp blues. The magic of the Dirt Band, though, is that they can play all of those various styles without losing their own central identity. Whatever they're playing, they always sound like themselves and they always sound wonderful.

Speed of Life is a winner, a great return to form by a band that's an Americana treasure.

review by
Michael Scott Cain

5 June 2010

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