The “Bookend” to The Band’s Historic Wheatstraw Suite Album Available August 21
“Without Rodney Dillard’s influence on my young notes and attitude, there would not have been a Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, nor a Will the Circle Be Unbroken album.”
NASHVILLE—August 10, 2020 — Imagine you’re a contestant on a game show called Something in Common. Your challenge is to listen to a list of items and name their common denominator as quickly as you can. So the host begins reciting the list: “Elton John. . . Bonnie and Clyde. . . the Eagles. . . Steve Martin. . .” You’re stymied, and the host continues: Will the Circle Be Unbroken. . . Deliverance. . . Andy Griffith. . .” Then it hits you: “The Dillards!” you shout. “They’re all tied to The Dillards!” You would be right.
The Dillards, Pinecastle’s newest signing, will debut Old Road New Again, the fabled group’s first original album since 1991. It will be available for download on August 21.
Like most Dillards collections, this one is by turns wistful and whimsical, forward-looking and nostalgic, hopeful and apprehensive. Apart from the solid underpinnings provided by the band members—Rodney Dillard, Beverly Cotten-Dillard, Gary Smith, Tony Wray, and George Giddens—the album glows with guest appearances from such luminaries as Don Henley, Ricky Skaggs, Sharon and Cheryl White, Herb Pedersen, Bernie Leadon, and Sam Bush.
Rodney Dillard, the lone surviving member of the original Dillards, calls Old Road New Again the “bookend” to the band’s 1968 masterpiece, Wheatstraw Suite. That album saw The Dillards evolve from a basic bluegrass ensemble to musical risk-takers who used a full orchestra, electrical instruments, studio-layered voices and drums to convey their visions. In so doing, they gave license and inspiration to generations of other experimenters. “The Dillards did an album called Wheatstraw Suite, which is one of my favorite albums,” Elton John comments. “The first thing I did when I came to America was go and see them.” Ultimately it led John to pick The Dillards as the opening act on his first North American tour. Eagles frontman Don Henley adds, “I was a big fan of The Dillards. Wheatstraw Suite was a very influential album in my life. In fact, I drove through a snowstorm to hear them play in Fort Worth back in 1968. They were an interesting band.”
“Wheatstraw Suite was a departure from the basic, somewhat traditional, recordings we had previously done for Elektra,” explains Rodney Dillard. “I wanted to move the group into uncharted musical territory, risking the ire of the hardline bluegrass traditional folks. 55 years later, after several successful recordings, I felt it was maybe time to once again plow new ground and complete my musical journey, so we recorded Old Road New Again, the bookend to Wheatstraw Suite, with the production help of Bil VornDick, and my friends and pickers whom I hold in high regard.”
John McEuen, musician and founding member of The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, wrote the liner notes for Old Road New Again. “Without Rodney Dillard’s influence on my young notes and attitude, there would not have been a Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, nor a Will the Circle Be Unbroken album. The songs rang true to my young ears, ears in search of music that would take me away,” McEuen reminisces.
Jac Holzman, Founder of Elektra Records and who first signed The Dillards in 1963, comments on Old Road New Again, “From the beginning to its dynamic end, I realize this to be unique and heaven-blessed music — with stature, daring, and a joy to listen to. You will feel the same as I, after just one encounter with this splendid Dillards ‘re-birth.’”
While proudly displaying The Dillards’ bluegrass and string band ancestry, Old Road New Againis, like its predecessor, enhanced and enlivened by the sounds of drums, cello and electric bass. The album’s title track, which features Henley and Bernie Leadon, is a mini-history of The Dillards’ fabled musical journeys. It jauntily name-checks or alludes to many of the acts the band influenced, jammed or worked with, including the the Byrds, the Eagles (it was Rodney who suggested Henley leave Texas and seek his fortunes in California), Buffalo Springfield, the Kentucky Colonels, and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. “When someone tells the story,” the chorus rings out, “this old road is new again.”
1.“Earthman” (featuring Herb Pedersen) Writer: Bob Milsap
2.“Save The Last Dance For Me” (featuring Sharon and Cheryl White) Writers: Doc Pomus / Mort Shuman
3.“Common Man” Writers: (featuring Herb Pedersen) Writers: Rodney Dillard / Beverly Dillard / Jon Vezner
4. “Always Gonna Be You” (featuring Don Henley) Writer: Mike Reid
5. “Funky Ole Hen” (featuring Beverly Dillard lead vocal/banjo) Writer: Beverly Dillard
6. “Sweet Companion” Writers: Sally Barris / Jon Randall / Jessie Alexander
7. “The Whole World Round” (featuring Herb Pedersen and Sam Bush) Writers: Mitch Jayne / Joe Stewart
8. “Tearing Our Liberty Down” (featuring Ricky Skaggs) Writers: Ritchie Lockhart/Beverly Dillard / Sam Lockhart
9. “My Last Sunset” (featuring Don Henley and Herb Pedersen) Writers: Ellen Britton / Will Hopkins
10. “Old Road New Again” (featuring Don Henley, Herb Pedersen, and Bernie Leadon) Writers: CJ Watson / Rodney Dillard
11. “Take Me Along For The Ride” (featuring Herb Pedersen) Writers: Rodney Dillard / Mitch Jayne
# # #