Levon Helm - Electric Dirt
That a band was content being known as simply The Band made them different from the start. The group had no flash, but a lot of substance. Was short on slickness, but long on genuine talent. Most of all, The Band was true to the music - and stayed that way through all of the trends other bands latched on to and disappeared with. Levon's unwavering love of straight forward, organic music remains appreciated by his contemporaries of course, but it also has earned him a legion of younger fans. The demographic spread of a Levon Helm concert audience makes a case for there being more 20-Somethings hip to Levon than there are 50-Somethings into Velvet Revolver, Nickelback and Velvet Revolver combined. That bodes well for Electric Dirt, the followup to Dirt Farmer, his critically acclaimed return to recording after battling and beating throat cancer. While Electric Dirt is more amped up than the Grammy winning forerunner that earned Helm Americana Artist of the Year recognition, it is still organic and has a hand-made feel, thanks in good part to the outstanding production of Larry Campbell. Tennessee Jed, the Grateful Dead song, leads off strong and sets the tone, reminding us that much of the southern rural sound of The Band was inspired by the Arkansas born Helm (the other members were Canadian). The rest of the album is true to form - strong songs, well arranged, masterfully but comfortably played. And Campbell's own multi-instrumental background helps him achieve just the right balance throughout, including four songs with the Helm horn section, two of which showcase arrangements by Allen Toussaint.
Having one of America's most distinctive and distinguished artists able to make great music again is a real treat - and Electric Dirt is a great reminder of what a national treasure Levon Helm is.