Cayamo Cruise Begins with Nitty Gritty Dirt Band Sail Away Show

by Kevin Wierzbicki

The 15th edition of the Cayamo cruise got off to an auspicious start on Friday, Feb. 10, 2023 as the long-running Americana group Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (NGDB) had the honor of playing Cayamo's sail-away show, traditionally the first concert to take place during the floating music festival.

Cayamo Cruise Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

Presented by music cruise experts Sixthman and taking place aboard the Norwegian Cruise Line ship Pearl Feb. 10-17, 2023, Cayamo had a stellar line-up that included Neko Case, Adia Victoria, Jeff Tweedy, Allison Russell, Trampled by Turtles, Patty Griffin, Andrew Bird, Tommy Emmanuel and many others. A little more than half of the NGDB show took place while the Pearl was stilled moored in departure port Miami, and whether it was intentional or a coincidence, the guys began their 13-song set with "You Ain't Going Nowhere."

Cayamo Cruise Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

It didn't take long for NGDB front man Jeff Hanna to ask for audience participation and he got it in spades as the large crowd, assembled for the show on the Pearl's roomy pool deck, obliged him by "hooting" at the appropriate time during the chorus of "Cosmic Cowboy" with its lyric "I just want to be a cosmic cowboy/I just wanna ride and rope and hoot." Rodney Crowell's "Long Hard Road" followed and so did a take on "The Lowlands," a cut featuring Hanna's son Jaime on guitar and vocals. Jaime would be a big part of the entire show, standing next to his father and reeling off licks on acoustic and electric guitars throughout. Jeff spoke of the late John Prine, an artist the NGDB had a long relationship with, before playing Prine's "Grandpa Was a Carpenter." The end of the Prine cover was a perfect time for the band to break out a traditional gospel number, "Take Me in Your Lifeboat."

Cayamo Cruise Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

The remainder of the show featured well-known originals and covers, beginning with "Honky Tonkin'" and moving into the Jerry Jeff Walker chestnut "Mr. Bo Jangles." "Ripplin' Waters," a favorite from the band's days in Colorado, started out as gentle as the titular waters but ended up as a real rocker as the guys turned the cut into an extended jam. Somewhat amusingly, the song featured an unplanned bit of brass as the Pearl sounded her horn, indicating that she was pulling out of Miami and heading for the lush Caribbean islands of Tortola in the British Virgin Islands and St. Maarten. The group's big hit from 1987, "Fishin' in the Dark" led into another cut from the Crowell songbook, "An American Dream" and those who wanted to shake it loose had their chance as the show finished with two dance numbers, "Bayou Jubilee" and "Jambalaya." And with that Cayamo 2023 was in full swing with the bar set pretty high.

Cayamo Cruise Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

Details on Cayamo's 16th edition, due to sail March 1-8, 2024, can be found here.

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