Dirt band so much more than their one gi­ant hit

The Daily Courier - - ARTS - By JAMES MILLER

I was among those, I’m sure, wait­ing all night to hear Fishin’ in the Dark. Like many in the au­di­ence, I was pleas­antly sur­prised by the 22 other num­bers the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band per­formed.

The band, now in its 51st year, played to a danc­ing-in-the-aisles crowd at the South Okana­gan Events Cen­tre, Thurs­day.

With a sparsely-lit stage, no video screens, and six mu­si­cians, they flaw­lessly per­formed a night of great­est hits (An Amer­i­can Dream, Mr. Bo­jan­gles, Dance Lit­tle Jean) and clas­sic coun­try cov­ers (Honky Tonkin’, The Weight, You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere).

It was their sec­ond ap­pear­ance at the SOEC — the first was back in 2009 — and they ac­knowl­edged that in their in­tro­duc­tion. (Nice touch.) Sev­eral of their songs in­cluded lengthy in­stru­men­tal play­outs and so­los, ap­pro­pri­ate con­sid­er­ing their most re­cent Grammy Award in 2004 was for best coun­try in­stru­men­tal.

The band has changed line­ups through­out its his­tory (re­mem­ber The Dirt Band era?). Leg­endary song­writer Jack­son Browne was a mem­ber in the first year of the band. Guest artists on their al­bums in­cluded Earl Scruggs. The two con­stants re­main lead vo­cal­ist/gui­tarist Jeff Hanna and drum­mer/har­mon­ica player Jim­mie Fad­den.

There was also Bob Car­pen­ter on key­boards, Jim Pho­toglo on bass and Jaime Hanna (Jeff’s son) on gui­tar. While Jeff Hanna han­dled most of the lead vo­cals, each of the other four mem­bers sang lead on at least one song. The sixth mem­ber was mul­ti­in­stru­men­tal­ist (mostly fid­dle) Ross Holmes.

Jeff Hanna shared some of the band’s his­tory, but omit­ted per­haps their great­est mo­ment in pop cul­ture — play­ing back-up on Steve Martin’s hit nov­elty song King Tut. Oh well, you can only get so much nos­tal­gia into a 100-minute show.

As corn­ball as it sounds, Fishin’ in the Dark was in­deed the con­cert high­light, com­ing as the third-last num­ber. Re­leased in 1987, it topped the Bill­board coun­try charts, but has re­mained pop­u­lar — thanks in part to sev­eral re­makes — ever since. An oldie but a goodie the first time you heard it. How can any­body not like this song?

Open­ing for Nitty Gritty Dirt Band was Nice Horse, an all-fe­male quar­tet from Al­berta. Fea­tur­ing gui­tarist Tara McLeod, banjo/gui­tarist Katie Rox, drum­mer Krista Wodelet and bassist Brandi Si­do­ryk, they played an all-too-short set of 30 min­utes, show­cas­ing songs from their de­but re­lease There Goes the Neigh­bour­hood and fin­ish­ing with a mash-up which in­cluded Dusty Spring­field.

The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band in­vited the three vo­cal­ists from Nice Horse on stage for their two en­cores. (Great touch.)

Google “Nice Horse” and re­mem­ber the band’s name. They’re re­ally good. I hope they go some­where.

JAMES MILLER/The Okana­gan Week­end

The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band per­forms Thurs­day at the South Okana­gan Events Cen­tre.

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