Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Asleep at the Wheel
8 p.m. May 19 at Renfro Valley Entertainment Center's New Barn, Interstate 75 at U.S. 25 (Exit 62) in Renfro Valley. $30, $35, $45. 1-800-765-7464. Renfrovalley.com.
Their geographic and stylistic preferences have set them on different paths during the past four decades. But on Saturday, those roads will lead the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Asleep at the Wheel to the same stage at Renfro Valley.
The Dirt Band is a veteran act born of a fertile folk and progressive country scene in Southern California during the late '60s and early '70s. Versions of Mr. Bojangles and Some of Shelly's Blues earned the Dirt Band considerable national airplay, but its biggest artistic bombshell dropped in 1972 with Will the Circle Be Unbroken. The triple album was a watershed moment in roots music that teamed the band with country and bluegrass pioneers Maybelle Carter, Earl Scruggs, Jimmy Martin, Roy Acuff and Doc Watson. Despite the record's profound influence on successive country music generations, it was ignored by the Grammy Awards. Curiously, a 1989 follow-up to Circle snagged two Grammys. (A third Circle album was issued in 2002.)
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Today, the Dirt Band tours behind its vintage songs, the material from Circle and the more mainstream hits it has scored during the past 20 years. Its lineup features four mainstay members: guitarist/vocalist Jeff Hanna, drummer/vocalist Jimmie Fadden, banjoist John McEuen and keyboardist/bassist/singer Bob Carpenter.
Asleep at the Wheel was formed in West Virginia and situated, briefly, in California, but it was drawn to Austin, Texas, as the behest of Willie Nelson in the early '70s. It was a fortuitous move. With singer/guitarist Ray Benson at the helm, where he remains today, the band explored a mix of traditional country, Western swing and often jazzy interplay that all but screamed Lone Star State inspiration.
The alliance with Nelson continued. They cut one of their better albums together in 2009, Willie and the Wheel. It was nominated for a Grammy that year but failed to win. That should be of little concern to Benson and company, who have chalked up nine Grammy wins.
Hall of Fame turns 10
Consider spending the entire day or even all weekend at Renfro Valley. Just up the street from the entertainment complex is the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame and Museum, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this weekend.
The venue will offer free live country and bluegrass music all day Saturday but will showcase its new outdoor stage Sunday with a performance by the veteran country pop-rock troupe Exile. (3 p.m. $15 in advance, $20 day of show. 1-877-356-3263. Kentuckymusicmuseum.com.) The band is due for induction into the Hall next year. Although he won't be performing, Hall of Fame inductee Sam Bush will be on hand for an audience meet-and-greet before Exile's set.
"People from around the state and the entire country have been very receptive to what we've been doing," Hall of Fame executive director Robert Lawson said. "But the artists have really enjoyed what we have accomplished.
"We've done everything without state funding, too, although we've tried like crazy to get some. What we've done has come through grants and fund-raising. So to get where we are in 10 years, I think, is monumental."
Atop a bumper crop of fine new recordings by local bands is a blast of reggae, dub, rock and soul by The Rudies — vocalist Jerrod Figgs, drummer Tim Welch, guitarist Jeff Rice and bassist Steve Cherry — called Rude World Order. We will talk to The Rudies about the new recording next month. You can sample the band's powerful live groove Saturday at Lynagh's Pub. (10:30 p.m. No cover charge.)