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Levon Helm - Dirt Farmer

Dirt Farmer

Levon Helm

Vanguard Records - 79844 2

Available from Levon Helm's web site.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Bob Gottlieb
(taoboy@cox.net)

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This punchy disc is a return to the roots, from which Levon Helm, former singer and drummer of The Band, has never strayed too far. This is long awaited and hoped for return of that distinctive voice that was so familiar to us leading The Band in some of its most memorable songs. This man and his voice have overcome extensive and extended radiation treatment for throat cancer, and now he comes full circle (though the voice by his admission is only about half back) in his return to the music he learned from his parents on their farm, and that he grew up with in Arkansas. He is doing this with the encouragement and help of his daughter, Amy Helm who produced this disc along with friend, and guitar and fiddle player Larry Campbell. At her request he is doing many of the songs he learned back then. A standout feature of this disc is the harmony vocals that are so beautiful and densely layered as to move the music to an even more complex level; to transport the listener back to another time and place, when music was made in the home by family members with their voices and the odd instrument. Numerous friends stopped by his wonderful home studio, that was almost lost in a near disastrous fire, to contribute their help and add to the texture of this disc; people such as Buddy Miller, Glenn Patscha, and Teresa Williams to give a few of the number who contribute to the making of this disc.

The seeds for Dirt Farmer were germinated and nurtured in Levon's Midnight Rambles which are legendary sessions at his home studio that are open to the public for a fee, and held on a monthly basis (though a friend that lives up the road has said they are now held twice monthly). One glorious thing about them is you don't know who will show up to play that night (Elvis Costello is one who has dropped in). These are held in Woodstock, NY, at his home studio, and it is a small town that is home to many musicians and like any small town they band together to help a family that has had difficulties to overcome. An artist known for bring his roots to the bands he played with brings it all back home. This is a great find that will provide great pleasure and elevate the benchmark.

Track List:

  • False Hearted Lover Blues
  • Poor Old Dirt Farmer
  • The Mountain
  • Little Birds
  • The Girl Left Behind
  • Calvary
  • Anna Lee
  • Got Me a Woman
  • A Train Robbery
  • Single Girl, Married Girl
  • Blind Child
  • Feelin' Good
  • Wide River To Cross

Edited by: David N. Pyles
(dnpyles@acousticmusic.com)

Copyright 2007, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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