Gettin' Down To The Nitty Gritty

Stories & Songs is the product of a March 1999 radio show reunion of original Nitty Gritty Dirt Band members Jimmy Ibbotson and John McEuen.

McEuen starts with a few sly wisecracks and the smooth "Richmond Medley" of traditionals, which includes snippets of "Arkansas Traveler" and "Turkey in the Straw."

His ability to play a number of instruments, including banjo, fiddle, guitar and mandolin, raises the level of musical sophistication on these songs, whether he's fiddling between reciting verses on "The Mountain Whippoorwill in Richmond," accompanying Ibbotson on the NGDB hit "Dance Little Jean" or picking banjo behind guest Chris Fuller's vocal on the spirited bluegrass traditional "Blue Ridge Cabin Home" (RealAudio excerpt).

Ibbotson earns lots of laughs — particularly with a colorful tale about his neighbor Hunter S. Thompson — but it's his endearing poignancy that deepens the intimate quality of the performances. The album's highlights are his heartfelt interpretations of Rodney Crowell's "Long Hard Road" (RealAudio excerpt) — played as part of a medley that also includes Steve Gillette's classic "Darcy Farrow" — and especially the touching "Ripplin' Waters" (RealAudio excerpt).

Ibbotson's amusing introduction to the latter is bittersweet as he ruminates on various topics, including his daughter, Alcoholics Anonymous, fear, his ex-girlfriend Linda Ronstadt and his friend the late John Denver.