Band playing loose, having fun

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Key points Free Concert Series: Nitty Gritty Dirt Band 4 p.m. Saturday Howelsen Hill Free Fadden recommends: Ibrahim Ferrer, "Buenos Hermanos" Rascal Flatts, "Bless the Broken Road"

After 40 years on stage and almost as many albums, founding Nitty Gritty Dirt Band member Jimmie Fadden is pleasantly surprised that people still are listening.

All around Fadden, band members have come and gone. He just holds down his post behind the drums and keeps a quiet smile on his face.

"It's amazing we're still having fun on stage and that our audience keeps coming to spend time with us and listen to songs they've probably heard a hundred times," Fadden said.

The NGDB's latest album, "Welcome to Woody Creek," was recorded in Colorado.

"We all lived in Colorado at one time," said Fadden, who now lives in Nashville. "We still have a great affection for it." The record was meant to symbolize not just a literal return to Colorado, but also a return to the idea of playing music the way they did "back in the day."

"The idea was that we were going to play loose and have fun with it," Fadden said. "And we did. We had a good time and a lot of burgers at the Woody Creek Tavern."

Fadden co-wrote the last track on the album, an instrumental tune called "Midnight at Woody Creek."

"We tried to incorporate a few different musical motifs," Fadden said. "There's a little section with a train thing and an old-time dance thing in there. Maybe John (McEuen) was thinking about the old days when ore trains were running down the valley and miners were working in that part of town."

The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band played at the first Summer Free Concert Series show after the venue moved from the courthouse lawn to Howelsen Hill.

Since the last time it played at Howelsen Hill, the band received a Grammy in 2004 for Best Country Instrumental Performance for "Earl's Breakdown," a track from the NGDB album "Will the Circle Be Unbroken, Vol. III." The track featured Earl Scruggs, Randy Scruggs, Vassar Clements and Jerry Douglas.

"I'm grateful," Fadden said. "Earl Scruggs had a lot to do with that, and it was great to be a part of doing something with him. He, after all, is responsible for a lot of the style and substance of bluegrass music. He's an original and an originator."

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