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Author: Subject: All Music Guide's FOUR STAR REVIEW of Levon Helm's "Electric Dirt"

Ultimate Peach





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  posted on 6/30/2009 at 03:26 AM
In a musical career that has spanned six decades, Levon Helm has made more
than a few excellent albums working with other folks -- most notably as drummer
and vocalist with The Band, as well as backing Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Muddy
Waters, John Martyn, Rufus Wainwright, and literally dozens of others. But as
a solo artist, Helm's record has been considerably spottier, with well-intended
disappointments outnumbering genuine successes, so it's good to report that
at the age of 69, Helm has found his second wind as a recording artist, cutting
two of his most satifying solo sets in a row. Following 2007's excellent "Dirt
Farmer", Electric Dirt is every bit as impressive and finds him sounding even
stronger than he did on that comeback set. Dirt Farmer was Helm's first album
after a bout with throat cancer nearly silenced him, and his vocals sounded
fully committed but just a bit strained; two years on, Helm's voice is nearly as
supple as it was during his days with The Band, and even when it shows
signs of wear and tear, his sense of phrasing and his ability to bring the
characters to life in these songs are as good as they've ever been.
While Dirt Farmer leaned toward acoustic music in the Appalachian
tradition, Electric Dirt aims for a broader and more eclectic sound; "Golden
Bird" sounds as if it could have been gleaned from the Harry Smith anthology,
but the opening cover of the Grateful Dead's "Tennessee Jed" swings with a
solid New Orleans groove like an outtake from The Band's Rock of Ages
concerts, a pair of Muddy Waters numbers are subtle but passionate acoustic
blues, "I Wish I Knew How it Would Feel To Be Free" is joyous gospel-infused
R&B, and "White Dove" is fervent and heartfelt traditional country.
Larry Campbell, who co-produced Dirt Farmer, returned for these sessions,
as did most of the same band, bringing a similarly organic touch to the
music, and the bigger sound of this album seems to suit everyone involved,
with Helm's drumming sounding especially lively and well-grounded.
And though Helm only wrote two songs for this album, they're two good
ones, especially "Growin' Trade," a tale of an aging farmer who has taken
to raising marijuana, and what could have easily been played as a joke is a
moving account of one man's conscience as it wrestles with his heritage
and love of the land. Not unlike his old buddy Bob Dylan from "Time Out
of Mind" onward, Levon Helm seems to have rediscovered his knack for
making great records in what some might have imagined would be the
latter days of his career; Electric Dirt sounds fresh, emphatic, and as effective
as anything Levon has cut since the mid-70's, and one can only hope he has
a few more discs in him just this good. 4 Stars.

Review by Mark Deming AllMusic.com

 

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Maximum Peach



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  posted on 6/30/2009 at 10:56 AM
very nice--thanks for posting
 

Peach Master



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  posted on 6/30/2009 at 12:12 PM
Thanks for the post, I can't wait to hear this one.

 

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  posted on 6/30/2009 at 12:14 PM
Wonderful read! Good to hear Levon getting some well deserved props!

 

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  posted on 6/30/2009 at 12:36 PM
Thanks

 

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Maximum Peach



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  posted on 6/30/2009 at 02:04 PM
From the Boston Globe:

You want an ideal marriage? Try the Grateful Dead’s “Tennessee Jed’’ in the hands of Levon Helm. Great idea, greater execution. Happily, there are more perfect fits on this ear-opening new disc from the longtime drummer of the Band. Helm survived throat cancer to release “Dirt Farmer’’ two years ago; it was filled with rural tunes from his youth and earned a Grammy for best traditional folk recording. But this follow-up has a more lively batch of songs recalling the Helm we know and love from his rocking days. It is aptly named “Electric Dirt,’’ and the songs range from sharply etched blues-rock (two Muddy Waters tunes) to contemporary folk, gospel, and a New Orleans-flavored take on “Tennessee Jed.’’ Once again, former Dylan guitarist Larry Campbell serves as producer, and he opens up the throttle to a bolder sound. Helm continues to grow stronger, while his daughter Amy (of the group Ollabelle) adds sweeping harmonies. Helm does some co-writing, but it’s the covers that shine, such as a stomping version of Waters’s “Stuff You Gotta Watch’’ (about a woman who “steals your dope’’ and drinks your gin) and the heartfelt gospel of the Staples Singers’ “Move Along Train.’’ Helm blends the secular and gospel worlds with an almost seamless precision. Fans of the Band will love this. (Out tomorrow) STEVE MORSE











 

Maximum Peach



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  posted on 6/30/2009 at 02:51 PM
Washington City Paper

Electric Dirt
Levon Helm
Vanguard
Robbie Robertson may have written “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” but the song would’ve come off as hokey carpetbagger artifice if drummer Levon Helm hadn’t sang it with such gritty earnest. In fact, as the lone American in the Band, the Arkansas native lent every ounce of his ample Southern authenticity to the rest of the members, all Canadians. It was as if merely being in the Band with Helm baptized Robertson, Rick Danko, and the others with a generous splash of moonshine. Helm continues to demonstrate a love and knowledge of all strains of Southern American music, despite having abandoned Turkey Scratch, Ark., for Woodstock, N.Y., some 40 years ago. His last record, 2007’s Grammy-nabbing Dirt Farmer, is as raw and engaging a country folk record as any in recent memory. Electric Dirt, his latest, faces South, too. Helm kicks it off with a cover of the Grateful Dead’s “Tennessee Jed,” which sounds more like a real country standard than Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter’s original. And his take on Carter Stanley’s “White Dave” is a mournful masterpiece that sounds like the songs on the slightly superior Dirt Farmer. “Growin’ Trade” is an aggie lament about a good farmer who is forced to start growing America’s biggest cash crop, despite its illegality. Helm teases with an intro that would trick a straight person into thinking it’s a version of the Band’s “The Weight.” The catchy hook, blue-collar vibe, and reverence for marijuana make it sound like the best Neil Young song he’s never sung. Helm teams with New Orleans legend Allen Toussaint for the first time since Toussaint arranged the horns for the Band’s classic live gatefold double album from 1972, Rock of Ages. The resulting covers of Randy Newman’s “Kingfish” and Billy Taylor’s “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free” sound as rich and engaging as the songs Helm and Toussaint crafted during their primes. Helm’s few missteps on Electric Dirt occur when he gets bluesy. A cover of the Staple Singers’ “Move Along Train” sounds like a selection from a house band at a strip mall blues club. Helm, more than most, has earned his blues credentials by growing up with and later headlining the King Biscuit Blues Festival, but his pair of Muddy Waters covers, “Stuff You Gotta Watch” and “You Can’t Lose What You Ain’t Never Had,” are tepid tributes to the Father of the Chicago Blues. Still, with all due respect to Don Henley, Phil Collins, and Peter Criss, Helm is the greatest singer-drummer in rock history—he anchored one of the greatest bands ever and whipped throat cancer’s ass. And despite Electric Dirt’s few rare moments of inauthenticity, Helm is still rock’s most authentic man.




 

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  posted on 6/30/2009 at 04:46 PM
Thanks for those reviews, dadof2. After I get something to eat I'm gonna head up
to Barnes & Noble and buy a copy of Electric Dirt this evening.

 

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  posted on 6/30/2009 at 06:26 PM
Thanks for the reviews!

Steve Morse is a long time music reviewer for the Boston Globe, not the guitar player.

 

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Ultimate Peach



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  posted on 6/30/2009 at 09:52 PM
Well.. I've listened to it twice now. I can definitely say I love this album.

 

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