You have probably heard the story by now. Levon Helm was diagnosed with throat cancer some years back and he could barely speak much less sing. At some point his voice miraculously returned, albeit a little more ragged but no less engaging. He began to host semi-regular musical events, rambles, at his farm in Woodstock featuring music friends and family. A couple of years back he released the wonderful Dirt Farmer which featured some covers of folk & bluegrass tunes both old and of a more recent vintage.
While Dirt Farmer was pretty much an acoustic album, his newest release Electric Dirt is more firmly rooted in his own musical history, that is it sounds like something that the voice of the Band would make. Robbie Robertson may have written the songs, but it was Levon Helm who imbued them with the sound of the rural south. His voice was, and is, instantly recognizable and while it is a little more worn and ragged it is no less compelling an instrument.
Check out the video of Tennessee Jed below. The joy that comes through is infectious. This album, more than its predecessor reminds the listener of just why the Band was such a great group to begin with. The sound is pure Americana with an authenticity that many newer artists can only hope to achieve some day. Tracks like Growin' Trade and When I Go Away stay with you. At once new and interesting while at the same time familiar and comfortable. I've heard some good albums this year, in particular from Otis Gibbs and William Elliott Whitmore,but as of right now this is my favorite. Check it out, you won't be disappointed.
The Making of Electric Dirt
Tennessee Jed on Letterman