Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Levon Helm Band's "Electric Dirt"

(Note: due to someone who works for Levon Helm not wanting me to share mp3s, the two Levon Helm tracks are no longer available. Sorry about that.)

By singing many of their greatest songs, while also being a fantastic drummer, Levon Helm was an important part of what made The Band one of the greatest rock groups of all time. Here he is at his best, singing the classic "Up On Cripple Creek" on stage at the Syria Mosque in Pittsburgh in 1970, followed by the original studio track.

The Band - Up On Cripple Creek

In the late 1990's, Levon lost his voice and was diagnosed with throat cancer. In this interview here, Levon recounts what it was like to survive this and eventually sing again at the Midnight Ramble shows at his home in Woodstock, NY. The continued strength of these shows and Levon's improving health and voice led to the release of his solo album Dirt Farmer in 2007.

The album was recorded with his Levon Helm Band which featured his daughter Amy Helm, along with Larry Campbell, Teresa Williams, Jimmy Vivino, Mike Merritt, Brian Mitchell, Erik Lawrence, Steven Bernstein and blues harmonica player Little Sammy Davis.

The highlight of this record for me was his cover of Steve Earle's "The Mountain." Levon's world weary voice added something special to this version. Here's a fan made video made up of some great old photographs.

The Levon Helm band engaged in successful touring along with continuing a run of Midnight Ramble shows in Woodstock that were more popular than ever and featured many great musicians joining in from night to night. This led to the recording of the excellent follow up Electric Dirt, which opened with a fun cover of Jerry Garcia's "Tennessee Jed." Here's the band's recent performance on The Late Show with David Letterman.

I got to see The Levon Helm Band open up for the Black Crowes in Atlantic City on July 29, 2009. While Levon had to rest his voice and could not sing, the rest of the band filled in admirably, taking some excellent turns on lead vocals for many new songs and classics from The Band. We also got a couple of fun surprise guests too.

Here's the Black Crowes lead singer Chris Robinson singing lead on "Tennesse Jed."

Chris and Rich Robinson joined in for the last song of The Levon Helm Band's opening set, "The Weight."

Look for plenty more on The Band, Levon Helm, and The Black Crowes here in the future. Thanks for checking this out.

Buy Levon Helm's Electric Dirt on amazon.com

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