May 29, 2008

Music Review – Levon Helm, Dirt Farmer

Less than a decade ago, Levon Helm—drummer and vocalist for legendary group The Band—had throat cancer, his Woodstock studio had burned to the ground, he was bankrupt and his bandmate Rick Danko died in his sleep. Now, his voice, studio and house have all been rebuilt. His Midnight Ramble concerts at his “barn” have become $200-a-head garage band sessions sold out weeks in advance. He describes this album as the product of “an age of miracles”—Helm honors his parents with trio songs they sang during his youth in Arkansas. The reworking of Steve Earle’s “The Mountain” could have easily slid onto (The Band’s) The Brown Album. Helm’s voice is pure hillbilly gospel ala Ralph Stanley/Stanley Brothers—a soulful wail dueling a weeping fiddle. Amy Helm (of Ollabelle) co-produced the album with string ringer Larry Campbell and shares backing vocal duties with companion Teresa Williams.

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