Nashville, TN, September 29, 2020 — The new LP Old Road New Again from bluegrass/Americana/roots-music legends The Dillards has been released on Pinecastle Records, and it marks the group’s first album of new music since the early 90s. The Dillards are a cultural institution, despite being somewhat under the radar for their nearly 60-year career. The band made a memorable impression as “The Darlings” on The Andy Griffith Show, and they went on to reach some huge artistic heights by the late 60s. To this day, many prominent musicians (Elton John, The Eagles, Steve Martin, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, etc.) consider The Dillards a touchstone and massive influence, especially the music of their 1968 masterpiece Wheatstraw Suite. The new album is described by group member Rodney Dillard as a “bookend” to the Wheatraw Suite LP, with a similar artistic scope to that legendary platter.
Like most Dillards collections, Old Road New Again 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, Johnny Hiland and Sam Bush.
Industry veteran Bil VornDick served as producer, engineer and mixer, and he led the album’s sessions at Mountainside Audio Labs in Nashville, a converted former Moose Lodge. Bil never imagined when he was watching the Andy Griffith Show growing up, that later in life, he’d be producing the artist, lead singer and songwriter who had written all those songs. VornDick recalls, “As soon as this project became an idea that Rodney Dillard and I wanted to pursue, I began keeping a folder of potential songs to include on the project – new songs that had been pitched to me, as well as some classic Dillards songs that we wanted to put a new spin on.”
To capture the highest-quality audio, with every subtle nuance of these assembled performers, VornDick chose a unique signal chain. “As far as microphones, I used a few large-diaphragm condensers on vocals, like the Miktek CV4 and a Neumann U-67 – both running through a Martech mic pre to a Universal Audio LA-3A audio leveler. I captured acoustic guitars with Sanken CU-31 and CU-32 small-size microphones, running through API mic pre’s and Sontec EQs. Fiddle used a Neumann KM 64 and the cello a Miktek CV3. For drums, I used a Miktek PM11 for kick, on the inside, with an old vintage FET47 on the outside; snare was a combination of a Sterling ST31 on top and a Shure SM57 on bottom; toms were Sennheiser 421’s; and Shure SM81’s for overheads – with all drum tracks passing through Focusrite mic pre’s. Additionally, I used a lot of API mic pre’s, then I used Nightpro EQs that I had gotten from the late legendary mastering engineer Denny Purcell on the cymbals and hi-hat. I also used a wide selection of Asterope cables, as I think they pass the cleanest audio I’ve heard to date.”
Rodney Dillard is the lone surviving member of the original Dillards, and he recalls Wheatstraw Suite as the album that 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 commented. “The first thing I did when I came to America was go and see them.” Ultimately it led Elton 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.”
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.’”
John McEuen, musician and founding member of The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, wrote the liner notes for Old Road New Again, where he comments, “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.”
While proudly displaying The Dillards' bluegrass and string band ancestry, Old Road New Again is, 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 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 Millsap
2.“Save The Last Dance For Me” (featuring Sharon and Cheryl White) Writers: Doc Pomus / Mort Shuman
3.“Common Man” (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, Herb Pedersen and Johnny Hiland) 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
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Photo caption 1: Cover at for the new LP Old Road New Again from bluegrass/Americana/roots-music legends The Dillards
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Photo caption 2: Rodney Dillard
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Photo caption 3: Pictured L-R: Bil VornDick, Don Henley and Rodney Dillard, pictured during sessions for The Dillards’ new LP Old Road New Again
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Photo caption 3: Pictured L-R: Rodney Dillard, Sam Bush and Bil VornDick, pictured during sessions for The Dillards’ new LP Old Road New Again