Levon Helm

Dirt Farmer (Vanguard)

Phases & Stages

Levon Helm

Dirt Farmer (Vanguard)

If Levon Helm's first studio album in 25 years strikes an overly joyous chord, it's not without good reason. Diagnosed with throat cancer in 1998, the backbeat of the Band was left bankrupt and voiceless, slowly recovering from both with Midnight Rambles at his studio-barn in Woodstock. Dirt Farmer thus proves a revelation, not only through Helm's amazingly rich vocals but also in the return to his Arkansas roots with a perspective and emotion that testifies to perseverance and faith. The scratchy cut of his voice furrows the traditional material exceptionally, the acoustic set sown with poignantly effusive, if raw, versions of "False Hearted Lover Blues," "The Blind Child," and Cajun-slanted "Poor Old Dirt Farmer." Accented by daughter Amy's harmonies and Dylan alum Larry Campbell's guitar and fiddle, the stark Appalachian tremble of "Anna Lee" and exquisitely gentle determination of "Wide River to Cross" balance against J.B. Lenoir's rollicking "Feelin' Good," the playful "Got Me a Woman," and honky-tonk take on the Carter Family's "Single Girl, Married Girl." Steve Earle's miner's lament "The Mountain" provides the finest moment, however, recalling the Band in sound and driven by Helm's steady and forceful pulse on drums. At 67, Levon Helm ain't waltzing his last.

***.5

READ MORE
More Levon Helm
Rock & Roll DVDs
Ain't in It for My Health: A Film About Levon Helm
Ain't in It for My Health: A Film About Levon Helm (Record Review)

Doug Freeman, Dec. 13, 2013

ACL Music Fest Saturday Reviews
Levon Helm

Margaret Moser, Oct. 2, 2009

More Music Reviews
Metallurgy
Mantar
Ode to the Flame (Record Review)

Michael Toland, Aug. 19, 2016

Metallurgy
Mirrors of Psychic Warfare
Mirrors of Psychic Warfare (Record Review)

Michael Toland, Aug. 19, 2016

More by Doug Freeman
Pre-Eminent Local Producer Danny Reisch Moves South to Lockhart
Pre-Eminent Local Producer Danny Reisch Moves South to Lockhart
The challenge as he moves is to maintain the same creative space and energy

Aug. 12, 2016

Texas Platters
The Watters
Great Unknown (Record Review)

Aug. 5, 2016

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Levon Helm

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)