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Since his previous solo album in 1982, Levon Helm's Woodstock studio burned to the ground, his Band mates Richard Manuel and Rick Danko died, and Helm survived a throat cancer that nearly silenced his burly tenor. And yet you'd never guess at these troubles from the opening notes of Dirt Farmer. Sure, Helm's voice is haggard, but he bites into the traditional "False Hearted Lover Blues" with gusto that few 67-year-old rock 'n' roll vets can muster. And as that song and others on the album -- every one a winner -- prove, Helm's molasses-thick accent and deeply rhythmic phrasing are none the worse for wear. Recorded with his daughter Amy and musician friends including Buddy and Julie Miller, guitarist Larry Campbell, and keysmen Glenn Patscha and Brian Mitchell, among others, Dirt Farmer visits songs from Helm's Arkansas childhood. The lion's share are traditional numbers, performed acoustically albeit with robust rock and country grooves. The standout "Single Girl, Married Girl" is an A. P. Carter tune; Steve Earle's "The Mountain" gets an impassioned reading; and Paul Kennerley's Frank and Jesse James ballad "A Train Robbery" gets a gutsy treatment and a wicked resonator guitar arrangement. Both the material and the worn timbre of Helm's vocals suggest the high-lonesome wail of Ralph Stanley -- but where that Clinch Mountain man has plied the Grim Reaper's route on his most recent recordings, Helm is all joy and thankfulness. "Feelin' Good," a jaunty duet with his daughter, proves the former; the majestic closer, "Wide River to Cross," testifies to the latter. Music making doesn't come more thrillingly honest than this.
Performance CreditsLevon Helm Primary Artist,Acoustic Guitar,Mandolin,Drums,Vocals
Julie Miller Vocal Harmony
Larry Campbell Dulcimer,Acoustic Guitar,Fiddle,Mandolin,Percussion,Background Vocals,Guitar (Resonator)
Buddy Miller Vocal Harmony
Glenn Patscha Pump Organ
Teresa Williams Background Vocals,Vocal Harmony
Brian John Mitchell Piano,Accordion,Background Vocals
Amy Helm Mandolin,Percussion,Piano,Drums,Vocals,Background Vocals,Mandola,Vocal Harmony
Byron Isaacs Bass,Percussion,Background Vocals
George Receli Percussion
Technical CreditsJ.B. Lenoir Composer
Julie Miller Composer
Larry Campbell Arranger,Producer,Audio Production
A.P. Carter Composer
Justin Guip Engineer
Levon Helm Arranger,Liner Notes
Paul Kennerley Composer
Buddy Miller Composer
Georgette Cartwright Creative Services Coordinator
Amy Helm Arranger,Producer,Audio Production
Byron Isaacs Composer
Carrie Smith Art Direction
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
One of the very reasons I liked The Band so much was I liked Levon Helms voice. It blended with the music so well. I decided to give this Cd a try as the notes said it compared to Ralph Stanley "also a fan of Stanley". I was raised on rock n roll on my mom's side and bluegrass from my dad's so I have different tastes when it comes to music. I love good bluegrass and just plain "down home" folk/bluegrass, whatever you want to call it, but it comes from the mountains in Eastern Kentucky is all I know. I love this CD!! Levon's voice blends with this bluegrass/folk music so well and his daughter's harmony compliments it very well. My favorite song is "Single Girl Single Child". The musician's also compliment Levon's voice. He may be 67 years old but he's still got it going on. There have been many artist's whose career's peaked once, e.g. Carlos Santana, and then after they get older,they reach their peak again, which is exactly what this CD does. Levon has reached his peak again. I hope next year that the Grammy's will give this CD the honor and recognition that it deserves.
I have become addicted to listening to this album over and over. There is not one track that is not incredible. If you appreciate music with a distinctly American traditional, rural folk sound, sort of in the genre of the soundtrack to Oh Brother Where Art Thou, buy this album.
The Band was the definitive American band. And a band that had many personal tragedies. Don't want to go into all that now. Levon is the real deal, always was always will be. This CD is the real deal. Larry Campbell is one of the best all round players, live and in the studio. Amy Helm's voice blends right in. Dirt Farmer is American music. Check it out, listen and just plain dig it!
Read the liner notes and find out how much Levon has been through since the beginning of the new century. It explains how we almost lost the amazing vocal talent of Levon Helm. Then listen to a wonderful CD filled with soloing, and harmonizing. The music is a blend of traditional and original hillbilly bluegrass. Helms vocals are wonderfully present, and he puts his mark right where it belongs. You could say that this is music stripped down to its soul. Everything that you want to hear, with none of the useless puff.
very solid vocals by levon and terrific backing band. highly reccomended
Levon's voice has a rich texture that touches the American Soul. Dirt Farmer is a Masterpeice.