Dirt Band Makes a Third Circle

Earlier this year, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band celebrated the 30th anniversary of their landmark album, Will the Circle Be Unbroken. More than a decade after releasing a second volume in the series, the star-studded Will the Circle Be Unbroken, Vol. III arrives in stores this week.

Dirt Band members Jeff Hanna, John McEuen, Jimmy Ibbotson and Jimmie Fadden didn’t realize they were starting the Circle series when they released the original 1972 album that featured guest appearances by Maybelle Carter, Roy Acuff , Merle Travis and others. The new Capitol release includes performances by several musicians featured on the first album, including Jimmy Martin , Earl Scruggs , Doc Watson , Vassar Clements and Randy Scruggs. Circle III, a two-CD set, continues the acoustic tradition with the Dirt Band working alongside Johnny and June Carter Cash , Vince Gill , Del McCoury , Emmylou Harris , Ricky Skaggs , Dwight Yoakam , Willie Nelson , Taj Mahal, Iris DeMent , the Nashville Bluegrass band and others. It marks the second Circle project for keyboardist Bob Carpenter, who joined the Dirt Band later in the 1970s.

The week also brings LeAnn Rimes ’ new album, Twisted Angel, a project that has the potential to shock those who remember her as the 13-year-old singing “Blue.” Now 20, Rimes moves far beyond the Patsy Cline influence by working with producer-songwriters Peter Amato, Desmond Child and Gregg Pagani. Rimes co-wrote four songs for Twisted Angel, but she has gotten some advance attention with the decidedly non-country “Tic Toc.” In a Curb Records bio, Rimes says of the track, “Yes, it’s orgasmic. That’s pretty much what it’s all about. When my mom first heard it, I thought she was going to fall over. She said, ‘Those lyrics are pretty explicit, but I like the song. I guess you’re old enough to sing it. After all, you’re married now.’”

Singer-songwriter Kim Richey remains an undeniable favorite of those working in Nashville’s music industry. Richey’s songwriting credits include Trisha Yearwood’s “Believe Me Baby (I Lied)” and Brooks & Dunn’s current single, “Every River.” Richey’s fourth album, Rise (Lost Highway), was produced by Bill Bottrell, whose production credits include projects with Sheryl Crow and Shelby Lynne .

Notable among the week’s reissues are the Stanley Brothers , who finally get their own title as part of the 20th Century Masters: The Millenium Collection. Given Ralph Stanley’s star status following the success of the O Brother, Where Art Thou soundtrack, this compilation will familiarize newer fans to his work with brother Carter Stanley who died in 1966. Highlights include “Angel Band” and the instrumental “Daybreak in Dixie.”

For bargain hunters looking for some hits, two labels are releasing three-CD compilations. Curb’s Cool Country Hits features 32 previously-released tracks, including well-known titles from Tim McGraw , Sawyer Brown , Lyle Lovett, Steve Holy , Wynonna , Jeff Carson , Hal Ketchum and others. More interesting perhaps is Sony’s 40 Ultimate Country Super Hits, which covers everything from Ray Price , Johnny Horton and Marty Robbins to Ty Herndon , Ricochet and the Kinleys . Along the way, signature songs are provided from Tammy Wynette , Roy Orbison, Roger Miller , George Jones and Merle Haggard .

Calvin Gilbert has served as CMT.com’s managing editor since 2002. His background includes stints at the Nashville Banner, Radio & Records and Westwood One.