Five-decades-running Americana pioneers Nitty Gritty Dirt Band have already played a major role in the preservation and popularity of folk music—their Will The Circle Be Unbroken album series introduced droves of new fans to folk, country, and bluegrass and earned the band multiple Grammy awards—but now, the long-running group have taken on another American institution near and dear to their hearts; the Bob Dylan songbook.
On May 20th, the band will be releasing Dirt Does Dylan, a ten-track album highlighting some of the gems from Dylan’s vast catalog with the help of three new band members: fiddle specialist Ross Holmes; singer-songwriter and bass player Jim Photoglo (who wrote one of the Dirt Band’s biggest hits, “Fishin’ in the Dark”); and Dirt Band founder Jeff Hanna’s son, the absurdly talented singer and guitarist Jaime Hanna. Produced and recorded by Ray Kennedy at Room & Board Studio in Nashville, Tennessee, Dirt Does Dylan finds a generation-spanning Dirt Band paying an appropriately great tribute to arguably the greatest songwriter of the 20th century with the help of friends like Jason Isbell, The War & Treaty, Steve Earle, and Rosanne Cash, to name a few.
Today, Billboard premiered the Dirt Band’s cover of “I Shall Be Released,” which Dylan originally recorded with The Band during their infamous Basement Tapes sessions. On this version of the tune, sisters Rebecca and Megan Lovell—better known as accomplished blues-rock duo Larkin Poe—lend their perfectly-blended voices and Megan’s lap steel guitar skills to the mix. Carpenter takes the first verse vocals while the Hannas handle guitar duties. Aside from the fine songwriting itself, Jeff Hanna and Megan Lovell’s infectious guitar interplay carries the song from verse to verse, culminating in the song’s final solo section. Fans can watch the band record “I Shall Be Released” in its official music video below, and check out the previously-released single, “The Times, They Are A-Changin’” at this link,
“I Shall Be Released” gets the dream session treatment, pairing the talents of one of the finest roots groups the US ever produced with the skills of two amazing women who are carrying American music into the future. Keyboardist Bob Carpenter’s lead vocals are holy and soulful, blending well with the track’s gospel feel. The Lovell sisters are stunningly good and absolutely haul the mail on vocals and lap steel. The levels of grace and emotion here are beyond measure. Only the real ones can play like this and we’re all blessed to be able to listen.