michael gallucci

ALBUM REVIEW — LEVON HELM

In album review on 06/22/2011 at 10:22 am

LEVON HELM

Ramble at the Ryman

(Dirt Farmer/Vanguard)

 For the past seven years Levon Helm has held weekly informal jam sessions at his barn in Woodstock. In 2008 he brought an expanded version of it to Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium along with guests Sheryl Crow, John Hiatt, and Billy Bob Thornton. This document of that concert is heavy on Band songs (which is to be expected) and busy arrangements, with horns, backing singers, and tons of instruments that typically don’t make their way to Helm’s hometown gigs. Helm, who underwent treatment for throat cancer a decade ago, sings quite a few of the songs here and can still nail classics like “Ophelia,” “Rag Mama Rag,” and “The Shape I’m In.” The guest spots seem frivolous (does Crow ever turn down a gig?), and the performances aren’t as loose as you’d hope. But it’s still a pretty good time.

 

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