Album Reviews

Music You Don't Know You Like Yet

LEVON HELM

ELECTRIC DIRT

2009-06-19

After hitting a home run with his 2007 release, Dirt Farmer, Levon Helm returns with Electric Dirt. Featuring a cast of musicians that has a wide and deep background in roots music of all forms and tracks written or popularized by the likes of the Grateful Dead, Pops Staples, The Carter Brothers, Nina Simone, Ollabelle, Muddy Waters and Randy Newman, Helm has crafted a disc that is loose, organic and a solid delight from beginning to end. As always, tying all of the pieces together are the rough, gruff vocals that Rolling Stone Magazine has ranked in the top 100 of all time. With the ravages of time and throat cancer seemingly held in abeyance Helm gives a boisterous reading to Muddy’s "Stuff You Gotta Watch", goes deep into the delta for the field holler groove of Staple’s "Move Along Train", duplicates the good time vibe of the Band on "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free" and rocks out on guitarist Larry Campbell’s "When I Go Away". While there are contemporary flourishes and horns on many of the tracks that distinguish this disc from the stripped down folk of Dirt Farmer, Helms seldom veers too far from his past. On "Golden Bird" and "White Dove", Helm and crew move deep into Appalachia with dulcimers, fiddles and acoustic guitars providing the backdrop to odes about hard times and simple pleasures. Given his roots in rural Arkansas and long tutelage in folk and blues music Helm is able to perform these numbers with an authenticity that lays waste to the efforts of modern roots pretenders. Electric Dirt gets beneath your nails and won’t scrub out with a simple washing. Smitty Kingfish- “Shitkickers”, “Ass”

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Compiled by the WYCE Journalism Club

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