Listen Up! Levon Helm – “The Same Thing” from “The Midnight Ramble Sessions Volume 3”

The Levon Helm Band

“The Midnight Ramble Sessions Volume 3” sessions represent last musical project with which the late drummer of The Band was involved. Helm personally hand-picked the album’s 13 songs from a five-year period of live Midnight Ramble recordings, 2006-2010 at the Barn, with his longtime band member and musical director, multi-instrumentalist Larry Campbell. The album features performances from the Levon Helm Band with special guests including the Black Crowes’ Chris Robinson, Jimmy Vivino, Elvis Costello and New Orleans legend Allen Toussaint, capturing the homespun spirit of those gatherings, a worthy posthumous tribute to Helm’s indomitable spirit and peerless musical abilities. Aside from listening to hours of tapes to come up with the final song selection, Helm also designed the cover art for the album.

Campbell explains that, after the Electric Dirt record, he and Levon began formulating what a third album might encompass. “He wanted it to be more representative of what this band was like at a live show, featuring all of the players,” says Campbell. “Levon was having health problems, so our plan was to go through the archives and pull out tunes that best showed what our lifestyle was like. That was his real, main motive, to showcase the band as best we could. And then he chose the tunes that he liked playing, and we edited it down to fit on a single CD. “There were probably 20 songs that he initially wanted us to include, but these were the ones we all finally decided were best.”

“The Same Thing” from the just-released “The Midnight Ramble Sessions Volume 3″ has Helm in excellent form as his characteristic dynamic drumming drives a Dixieland /rock/soul infused gumbo in front of a lucky audience. Of “The Same Thing” (recorded Feb. 14, 2009) Campbell says : We’d been doing that song for a while and it turned out to be a great show opener. When Levon’s singing was on, it was just magical. Jimmy Vivino is playing slide guitar on this, and Mike Merritt was on bass that night. The song always just set a great mood to start the evening, so we figured we’d start the record with it.”

Buy The Midnight Ramble Sessions, Vol. 3

5 Iconic Americana / Roots Music GRAMMY Moments

Johnny Cash

The 55th Annual GRAMMY Awards draws nigh. That famous night that the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences put on the most glitzy industry trade show. Though Americana and roots music comes to mind when you think of the GRAMMYs but there have been some great moments if you were paying attention.

Here are a few of my favorite GRAMMY moments over the years. Leave your in the comments, I’d love to hear about them.

Boston-based folk-pop performer Linda Chorney does the seemingly impossible and snags a 2011 nomination for the GRAMMY for Americana Album of the Year by employing elbow grease, sleepless nights and the Internet. This sets social media tongues wagging and puts PR pros and other music industry gatekeepers on their heels.

Extraordinary newcomer John Fullbright was nominated for a 2012 Americana Album of the Year GRAMMY for his debut studio full-length “From The Ground Up.” After his passionate performance of “Gawd Above” he lost out to the legendary Bonnie Raitt. Afterwords he said with a smile “If I’m going to lose Bonnie Raitt is the one I want to lose to.”

HD John Fullbright performance 2013 Grammys by dm_51188e7423dd3

It appeared to be just a jam between two great roots acts, Mumford & Sons and The Avett Brothers. The ands joined together and the true intension was revealed as they backed Bob Dylan on “Maggie’s Farm” at the 2011 GRAMMYS.

In a heartfelt 2012 GRAMMY tribute in honor of Levon Helm and the victims of Sandy Hook shooting Elton John, Mumford & Sons, Mavis Staples, Zac Brown , Alabama Shakes singer Brittany Howard and T Bone Burnett came together for a passionate rendition of The Band’s ” classic ” The Weight.”

After years of lingering in a career slump Johnny Cash scores the GRAMMY for Best Contemporary Folk Album in 1995 giving the latter part of Cash’s career much deserved attention and a spirit of vitality.

This bonus moment goes out to Arlene – “O Brother Where Art Thou” Grammy Performance (2002)

Americana and Roots 4th of July Playlist

Johnny_Cash Flag

Ask someone on the street what America stands for and you’ll probably get a different answer from each one. America has a complicated history, as does any combination of human beings, but one thing is certain. We crated in Internet, haolh professional eating competition and make some damn fine music.

Musical independence defines this list. These musicians peruse their vision to sing the tunes they hear in their heart. Here are 10 artists that do it their way and refuse to compromise their pursuit of happiness. These are artists that show the greatness of American roots history and artist ingenuity.

Like all lists it’s incomplete, add your choices in the comments.

Sometimes he overreaches but there’s no denying that Ryan Adams is a man that has followed his own path (and faced his demons) throughout his career.

Throughout his career with The Band and his solo work, Levon Helm generously shared his talent. He did so to the last years as many fans and guest-artist attended legendary shows at his up-state New York farm.

Drawing from classic Texas country and western swing no one sounds like Lyle Lovett and no one puts on a better live performance.

From fugitive to country music legend, Merle Haggard has always empathized with the working class of Americana and given us songs that helped us walk in their shoes.

Nashville taught him about the business side, but the production system also stunted his creativity. Willie headed to Texas to unite the rednecks and the hippies and blazed a legacy with a catalog of classics. The 4th of July is also commemorated by his legendary picnic!

Like his compadre Willie Music City was a professional strait-jacket for Waylon. He risked it all to follow his muse.

Billy Joe Shaver supplied the hardscrabble source material for Waylo the set himself apart and make Billy Joe an accessory to the Outlaw Country movement.

From the fertile soil of Memphis Tennessee, and the pioneering tutelage of Sam Phillips’ Sun Studios, American music was changed forever and Johnny Cash was the country music portion of that that change.

Dylan is the very embodiment of a self-made man. Sure he borrowed from Woody and others but he brought it to another place.

Jimmie Rodgers traded a career in the train industry to playing his signature yodeling songs vaudeville and medicine shows to become the father of Country Music.

Top 5 Levon Helm Songs


He didn’t write many of the songs he made legendary but when he did them they stayed done.You couldn’t imagine them any other way.

On this occasion of his birth I submit to you my choice in the top 5 Levon Helm songs he performed over his Band and solo career. I hope you like them. If you don’t see your favorite place it in the comments below.

“Tennessee Jed” – This Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter tune is from Levon Helm’s final studio album “Electric Dirt.” The album won the first ever Grammy Award for Best Americana Album, an inaugural category in 2010.

“Poor Old Dirt Farmer” – This cover from of an old traditional, the Grammy-winning “Dirt Farmer” , could have easily been written by helm in tribute to his birthplace of Elaine, Arkansas.

“A Train Robbery” – Depending on your source this Paul Kennerley penned tune may or may not be about Jesse James. True or not it’s a great yarn well performed by Levon from the album “Dirt Farmer.”

“The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” – Written by Robbie Robertson with Levon Helm. The song tells the tale of the last days of the American Civil War and the suffering and humiliation of the South.

“The Weight” – Though it was not a significant mainstream hit for The Band it has gone on to become their signature song.

Watch Out! Levon Helm Covers Randy Newman’s “Kingfish” [VIDEO]

Levon Helm not in it for my health posted this great clip from Ain’t in It for My Health</em> , Jacob Hatley’s documentary on the musical legend.

The film will premiere in upstate New York on April 19th, near his famous barn where his rambles are held to this day. The opening will occur exactly one year after his passing,

The film show’s Hatley’s intimate access to Helm and follows his comeback with the Grammy-winning Dirt Farmer album. Below is a clip from the film showing Helm performing acoustic rendition of Randy Newman’s “Kingfish” his voice raspy as a result of throat cancer treatment.

From “So this clip was one of the first things we shot,” says Hatley. “We were in between takes on a music video for the Dirt Farmer record and had rented out this dilapidated motel for the shoot. We were all sick of shooting this lip synched, choreographed video and wanted to hear some real music, so Levon and Little Sammy Davis went in to one of the rooms and started playing. They did about eight songs, just for the crew. There was a heart shaped jacuzzi just off frame. The motel has since burned to the ground.”

Listen Up! Exclusive Track Release – Bow Thayer – “Eden”

Bow Thayer EdenIt says something special about an artist when the legendary Levon Helm plays drums on your previous recordings and you’ve been asked to Helm’s famous Midnight Rambles in Woodstock, NY, 6 different times.

Bow Thayer is that artist. The Vermont singer/songwriter new album ‘Eden’ will be released on March 5, and is co-produced/engineered by 3-time Grammy winner Justin Guip.

Eden, the album, was written almost entirely on electric banjo, and the title song certainly harkens back to the rootsy groove of The Band. The rest of the album further explores Americana and bluegrass, soul and rock territory.

EdenÂ’ is ThayerÂ’s first album of new material since the release of ‘2010 ‘s Bottom of the Sky.

Pre-order Eden

The Felice Brothers Cover Nirvana, The Beatles, Bruce Springsteen and The Band [VIDEO]

I’m a huge of of Upstate New York’s Felice Brothers. I always suspected that Big Pink molecules must still dwell in the area and were breathed in by the band as infants leading them to their dark roots musical destiny. Or something…

As great as their originals are the band picks some choice covers on the road. I found some cool covers done by the band and thought I would share.


Elton John and Mumford & Sons Set to Honor Levon Helm at 55th Grammys

Levon_Helm_at_-life_is_Good_Festival-_in_2011The famed Midnight Ramble will roll into L.A. on Sunday night as Elton John** and Mumford & Sons appear on the Grammy stage to lead a tribute to the late music great Levon Helm, The Associated Press reports.

As part of the awards show’s in memorial tribute, John and Mumford & Sons will be joined by T Bone Burnett, Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes, Zac Brown and Americana Album of the Year winner Mavis Staples for a special performance of the Band’s “The Weight.

“Can you think of a song that fits (more)?” said Ken Ehrlich, producer of the Grammy Awards. “Philosophically it fits the moment.”

The Band’s 1968 debut, “Music From Big Pink,” and its follow-up, “The Band,” remain landmark albums and count as the vanguards for the Americana movement. Songs such as “The Weight” and “Cripple Creek” have become rock standards. Early on, The Band backed Bob Dylan on his sensational and controversial electric tours of 1965-66 and collaborated with him on the legendary “The Basement Tapes.”

Elton John has a long history with Helm and counted him as a close friend. John and his writing partner Bernie Taupin, wrote the song “Levon”, who’s title character was inspired by The Band’s co-founder, drummer, and singer. The Band was apparently Elton John’s and Taupin’s favorite group at the time. Their sound inspired John and Taupin to create the albums Tumbleweed Connection and Honky Château.

Elton John and his civil partner, David Furnish, named their son “Zachary Jackson Levon Furnish-John.”

Helm, singer and drummer for The Band, died on April 19th in New York of throat cancer. He was 71. Mumford & Sons are up for four awards at this Sunday’s Grammys, including Album of the Year for Babel. Alabama Shakes are up for two awards, including Best New Artist. Zac Brown Band is up for Best Country album for Uncaged.

Are these the performers I would have chosen for a Helm tribute? Probably not. But the sentiment is genuine and I’m sure that the performances will be heartfelt.

Tune in to the 55th Grammys airing this Sunday on CBS.

Levon Helm Documentary “Ain’t In It For My Health” Coming To Theaters/DVD

The 2010 documentary  Ain’t In It For My Health: A Film About Levon Helm, will be released in movie theaters nationwide for the first time next year.

The film follows longtime Band singer and drummer, as he works on 2010’s Electric Dirt,  the follow up to 2007’s Dirt Farmer , the winner of the inaugural Grammy for Best Americana Album.

Director Jacob Hatley shot the film over more than two years, spending time with Helm and his family at the Helm’s Woodstock, New York, home, the famed locale of Helm’s Midnight Ramble concert series.

Film distributor Kino Lorber said, “It was a privilege to meet Levon at one of his last Midnight Rambles and verify personally how insightfully this music-packed film captured the generosity of spirit, the humanity and the immense talent of one of America’s greatest musical artists. We see this as a mission now to be able to open the film, and Levon’s life, to legions of fans, followers and new audiences, who will be thrilled to discover the scope and depth of his contribution.

Levon Helm died on April 19th in New York of throat cancer. He was 71.


‘Love for Levon,’ Tribute to Levon Helm at Izod Center [VIDEOS]

After attending hundreds of concerts there are very few shows occurring  these days that I wish I had attended. This is one of them.

Gregg Allman, Jakob Dylan, Bruce Hornsby, Mavis Staples, John Prine, Joan Osborne, John Hiatt, Jorma Kaukonen,  Roger Waters, Ray La Montagne and other Rock and Americana music greats all paid tribute to the great Levon Helm who passed away last April.  The performers were backed by the tremendous Levon Helm Band featuring Amy Helm and now led by the guitarist and fiddler Larry Campbell.  The concert will eventually be shown on AXS TV and released as a DVD.

Here are some of the best videos I could find from this once in a lifetime event.