- Thursday, July 3, 2008, 8 p.m.
- Strings Music Festival, 900 Strings Road, (Corner of Mt. Werner Rd & Pine Grove Rd), Steamboat Springs
Steamboat Springs Since 1966, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band has brought American roots music into American pop culture.
Early hits such as "Mr. Bojangles" cemented the group's crossover status, early homages to earnest folk songs such as "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" gave it cross-generational appeal, and everything in between, such as the 1987 hit "Fishin' in the Dark," has kept the band going.
The band plays the Strings Music Festival's Different Tempo Series at 8 p.m. today. Tickets for the show sold out shortly after they became available, but half-price lawn seating goes on sale at 9 a.m. today on a walk-up-only basis at the Strings box office.
Bob Carpenter, who has contributed keyboard, accordion and vocals to Nitty Gritty Dirt Band since 1979, spoke with the Steamboat Pilot & Today about the band's cross-genre songwriting, the lasting power of American roots music and the modern difficulties of being a live performer.
STEAMBOAT PILOT & TODAY: In the more than 42 years Nitty Gritty Dirt Band has been together, do you feel like the sound has evolved?
BOB CARPENTER: We've sort of taken a little bit from every genre and sort of melded it together. The instrumentation has always been the same in the band, the singers have always been the same in the band, so in that way, the music is not really that different in our career.
SP&T: Where did all those different influences come from to create that genre-melding?
BC: The music that the band was listening to was a lot of acoustic music. That's why the band went to Nashville in 1971 to make 'Will the Circle Be Unbroken,' because those were the types of artists that the band was listening to.
SP&T: Since then, there have been two more volumes of "Will the Circle Be Unbroken." What is it about this music that keeps bringing people back?
BC: I think there's an honesty in that kind of music. I think that's the kind of music that if people enjoy it, they can sit down and get a guitar and learn to play it.
I think you would be hard pressed to take a pop hit from today and sit down and have a guitar and learn to play it. You couldn't take a Britney Spears hit and do that.
SP&T: Do you all have anything new going on?
BC: We have a new album being mixed right now - if you can call it an album or a CD or a download. I don't know what to call it anymore.
SP&T: And for this concert you're planning to play the new stuff and the stuff you've written more recently?
BC: For right now we're doing everything up until this point. The thing is that we only have a couple of hours to play usually, and no matter what we do, we can't play all of it.
SP&T: You mentioned not knowing how to refer to the album you're putting out soon. What do you think about the way music is being consumed now, and how that's changed over the years you've played with this band?
BC: There's a limited way to get your music out there. I live in Southern California, and what they call brick-and-mortar stores are nonexistent. You can go into Borders and some smaller places like that, but other than that, you've got to go to Amazon.
To physically go out and get in your car and spend the money on gas and buy a record, I don't know anyone who would do that anymore. We're planning on doing that (releasing a physical record) because I still believe, and most people do, that physical record albums really do sound better.
In this environment, I would have never become a musician probably. It's just so hard comparatively. Back when the band started, we could just pick up a guitar and start playing.
SP&T: How do you feel about that shift?
BC: It's really sad, because you know live music is still the truest form of music. You've got the risk of going out on stage and playing live. : It's like live music is disappearing from the U.S. Even in the cities here, if you've got a band that nobody knows about, you've got to do what they call a pay-to-play. :
We've been very fortunate. In the 42 years we've been together, except for a large portion of 2000, we've been able to tour every year. And we're very fortunate that we're still able to get people to come out and see us play.