Well, I promised you a follow-up about our Nashville trip, so I will try. To put it simply, the trip was amazing.
We went to visit the Ryman Auditorium, former home of the Grand Ol' Opry, and to be a part of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's 50th Anniversary Celebration. But we got so much more than we thought possible. Suffice it to say I will run out of (and repeat) many superlatives during the course of this column.
The concert itself was nothing less than spectacular, with music (and memories) provided by the NGDB and some of their closest "friends." Those friends included folks like singer-songwriters John Prine and Rodney Crowell, Vince Gill, Alison Krauss, Jackson Browne, Jerry Jeff Walker (who wrote the NGDB hit Mr. Bojangles), and long-time NGDB member Jimmy Ibbotson.
The musicians on stage also included the incredible Jerry Douglas on Dobro, the phenomenal Sam Bush on fiddle, mandolin and vocals, and rock solid Byron House on both stand-up acoustic and electric bass.
As a long-time singer-songwriter myself, I was enthralled (if that is the right word) as I sat there and watched and listened to some of my musical heroes; John Prine singing "Grandpa Was a Carpenter" from the second Circle album and "Paradise" (Muhlenberg County); Rodney Crowell singing the Dirt Band hits he had written - "An American Dream" and "Sharecropper's Dream" (Long Hard Road); and -- of course -- Jerry Jeff Walker singing the iconic "Mr. Bojangles."
AT the risk of sounding sappy - it was -- almost -- a spiritual experience.
Add to that the voices of the incomparable Vince Gill and Alison Krauss and it was almost too much ... Almost. Jimmy Ibbotson dropping by to add "Dance Little Jean" and "Ripplin' Water" to the mix didn't hurt anything.
The great thing about this celebration was that this wonderful music -- performed by these greats - was all wrapped around the 50 year history of one of America's most important musical groups -- The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.
Jeff Hanna, Jimmie Fadden, John McEuen, and Bobby Carpenter make up the heart and soul of the group. In fact, Mr. Hanna said he and Mr. Fadden had not missed doing a show together in 50 years. That in itself is incredible.
Their music does not -- and never has -- fit into any one category or (for those who prefer a more high-sounding word) genre. There is a line in one of their earlier songs that says it all ... "Is it folk or rock or country -- seems like everybody cares but us ..." And we shouldn't really care what label anyone puts on NGDB music.
I've heard it called American music, but it's more than that. It is -- in my opinion - America's music.
From their humble beginnings as a Southern California jug band to their mold shattering, record breaking, award winning, industry shaking collaboration with some of the greats of country and bluegrass -- "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" -- this group of extremely talented singers, songwriters and musicians has set the standard for being able to touch audiences and take listeners to those places deep within our hearts.
And they have set the bar so high I am not sure anyone will ever compare.
Thanks Jeff, Jimmie, John and Bobby for making the music we live by ... the music that has helped our family remain close (even when we are physically far apart) ... the music that has spoken to the hearts of our children (now grown) and taught them about life and about how to live ... music that has molded Stewart family memories that will last for years and will -- without a doubt -- be passed down to future generations.
I am so glad we were able to be a part of your 50th Anniversary celebration, and what a party it was. In fact -- God willing -- we are already preparing for the 60th.