Levon Helm

Dirt Farmer | Vanguard
By TED DROZDOWSKI  |  February 12, 2008
3.5 3.5 Stars
If there’s still any debate over who was the soul of the Band, it ends with this album — a collection of songs as evocative of the American prairies, hills, backwoods, and deltas as that group’s best work, albeit writ in a more homespun fashion. Sixty-seven-year-old Helm’s voice is frayed by the cancer he’s survived; yet the still-vibrant red-clay tones of his native Arkansas give breadth to these stories of hardscrabble lives torn by war, poverty, and love. He’s aided by a crack crew including his daughter Amy and ex-Dylan guitarist Larry Campbell, who together produced. But even alone, Helm, with his ringing mandolin and smoothly arcing vocal melodies, could have delivered a historic performance. Drumless arrangements allow these tales to linger in the air like specters. And fans of old-time music, that vague notion of a genre called Americana, and bedrock artists like Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard should find Dirt Farmer, Helm’s first solo disc in 25 years, appropriately haunting.

Levon Helm | Orpheum Theatre, 1 Hamilton Place, Boston | March 1 | 617.931.2000
Related: Levon Helm | Electric Dirt, Maine Songwriters Association ramps up, Pat Colwell's record, and more, Photos: Newport Folk Festival, part one, More more >
  Topics: CD Reviews , Johnny Cash, Levon Helm, Levon Helm,  More more >
| More

Most Popular
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   TOM HAMBRIDGE | BOOM!  |  August 23, 2011
    Roots rock is the new country and ex-Bostonian Tom Hambridge is the style's current MPV.
  •   COUNTRY STRONG | SOUNDTRACK  |  January 11, 2011
    This steaming pile of songs is emblematic of the state of mainstream country music — all artifice, no heart, calculated anthems written to formula and meant, like the film itself, to do no more than capitalize on the genre's current success and rob its undiscriminating fans.
  •   MARC RIBOT | SILENT MOVIES  |  November 02, 2010
    This exceptional, eccentric guitarist has traced a slow evolution from screamer to dreamer.
  •   IN MEMORIAM: SOLOMON BURKE, 1940 — 2010  |  October 11, 2010
    Boston-based blues-guitar virtuoso Ronnie Earl seems to be considering his past on his 23rd album as a leader.

 See all articles by: TED DROZDOWSKI