No longer Gritty, Ibby returns to Denver


On a warm May day, a bearded man sits in a chair on a street corner in Englewood, soaking up the Colorado sun. In his hands is a piece of wood that looks suspiciously like a duck, and a carving knife. Curls of wood lie scattered at his feet, lending a scent of kindling to the air.

In the building behind him are his instruments and his stage clothes. He’s just led a class and is enjoying the downtime before his evening concert.

He’s actually a few minutes late for sound check.

It’s been a few years since Jim Ibbotson strapped on his bass and joined the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band onstage. He left the band, twice, and has struggled to make a name of his own on stages and recordings.

These days, he plays with and for friends such as Denver music icon Bob Turner, who needed knee replacement surgery and, like many musicians, had no health insurance.

Ibbotson will share the stage with Jim Ratts and Butch Hause, of Runaway Express, on May 30.

“I miss the teamwork of producing a new project, the music only we could make,” Ibbotson said.

He hasn’t recorded an album of songs on his own, aside from 2007’s “Canyon,” but does record in a studio in his Woody Creek home.

“I’ve been making expensive demo tapes,” he said.

He is working on new material.

“The problem with home recording is your ears get better,” he said.

Ibbotson reworked a song melody, “Battle of Armageddon,” written by Roy Acuff in the 1940s, and recorded, but not used, on Nitty Gritty’s “Will the Circle be Unbroken?”.

Songwriting is Ibbotson’s domain, and he contributed many hits to the Nitty Gritty lexicon.

“It got to the point where they didn’t like what I was writing, wanted me to tone it down,” Ibbotson said.

Now, Ibbotson has written some songs that are definitely rated R if not NC-17, songs like “Jacuzzi Squirmer” and other anthems to the wild side of the 1970s.

Ibbotson plays some interesting rooms these days.

He has a song, “Becky and the Baby,” about a news reporter killed covering a protest outside a women’s health clinic.

Ibbotson plays the jail where that bomber serves his life sentence.

Carving takes up as much time in Ibbotson’s life these days.

He learned from Larry Lefner, renowned carver who has carved high end Aspen mantels and living cottonwood trees in Basalt, and now uses carving to pass time. He’s sold a few pieces, adding carving artist to his metaphorical resumé.

“I guess it is whittling until you get paid for it,” Ibbotson said.

Probably didn’t hurt that Lefner’s gallery is between Ibbotson’s home and the infamous Woody Creek Tavern.

Now he’s in a group called Jimmy’s House, with Ratts and Hause, and hopefully a drummer.

Some of the songs are Ratts’ some are Hause’s, some Ibbotson’s, many are other writers’ work.

The trio, or quartet will play Daniels’ Hall at Swallow Hill May 30.

If you go

Jimmy’s House performs at 8 p.m. May 30 at Swallow HIll Music Association, 71 E. Yale Ave. Denver.

Tickets are $15, $18 and $21 at, or 303-777-1003.


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