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Speed of Life – Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

speed of lifeAfter over forty years in existence, you could forgive the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band a weak album or two. Fortunately, there’s no such need when it comes to the legendary ensemble’s new disc Speed of Life, their first since 2004’s Welcome to Woody Creek.

Of course, such a lengthy tenure for any band means line-up changes, but since the last record this has been limited to the loss of only one member, bass player Jimmy Ibbotson, whose most recent stint in the band began in 1982. Perhaps surprisingly, lead singer and guitarist Jeff Hanna is still up there by the mic after all these years, wrapping his warm tenor vocals around each line with consummate ease.

The opening track, “Tulsa Sounds Like Trouble to Me,” is undoubtedly one of the strongest here. It’s always the way when the first song is particularly good that it raises expectations for all the subsequent ones. Fortunately, we’re talking Nitty Gritty here, and the above-par four-and-a-half minute opus gives way to original member Jimmie Fadden’s delicious harmonica playing on “Brand New Heartache,” where he joins keyboard/mandolin player Bob Carpenter on harmony as Hanna takes the lead on a lushly harmonic chorus. Carpenter takes lead vocals himself on “Something Dangerous,” which features some especially stellar picking, as does multi-instrumentalist John McEuen’s too-short banjo showcase, “Lost In the Pines.”

It would be unfair to compare this latest work to the band’s vintage classics, so I won’t do that. Based upon their own merits, however, tracks like “Earthquake,” “Speed of Life” and particularly “Amazing Love” hold up very well. While other acts might be content to rest on their laurels, Nitty Gritty is not only still out there actively touring but also in the studio crafting worthy additions to its discography.

Although nothing present is particularly commercial – the band hasn’t been chasing the charts since their “Fishing In the Dark” and “Modern Day Romance” era of the eighties – this album will no doubt appeal to their existing legions of fans, and very likely convert some new ones along the way.

Download the album from Amazon MP3

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2 Comments

  1. Great review. I completely agree. I think the first track is one of the strongest as well.

    • hello country-rock and bluegrassies,listening to this new album of the ngdb.I must say its songs sound good;the close harmonies especially.This is well known for this band-singing style.The “amazing love”,is really amazing because of its special style.Twelve strings electric,sounds ever lasting and pulls public in Europe ,certain.Compare performaces of the Eagles and Venus in this ranks.I like this :amazing Love,song very most and for me it proves that the rock sound of this ngdb.(listen to older rock cd.!),makes it worth to compose more country rock.keep on listening.

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