Divine blues and roots from Americana veteran
Rating: 9 / 10
Roisin Dwyer, 08 Jul 2009
A jaunty reworking of The Grateful Dead’s ‘Tennesse Jed’ sets the tone for the follow-up to Helm’s Grammy Award-winning Dirt Farmer. This paean to the Volunteer State with its playful swing, lively horn arrangements and colourful characters tells you all that you need to know about the rest of the album – it’s a country-drenched rollicking ramble steeped in the musical heritage of the deep south.
Once again, Levon combines original material with a choice selection of covers, calls on the production skills of ex-Dylan henchman and multi-instrumentalist Larry Campbell and surrounds himself with a stellar cast of musicians and backing vocalists.
A powerful reworking of the slow bluesy Staple Singers gospel standard, ‘Move Along Train’, showcases Levon’s impressive holler, which seems even more invigorated than on the previous long-player, his first post-throat cancer release.
The Helm/Campbell penned ‘Growing Trade’ is archetypal Appalachian folk; Happy Traum’s ‘Golden Bird’ is revised beautifully, its winsome lilting violin a perfect accompaniment to the fragile vocal and funereal tone. Elsewhere, Randy Newman’s ‘King Fish’ sparkles robustly and the Allen Toussaint-arranged horn section enhance the composition sublimely.
A cover of The Bands ‘Stuff You Gotta Watch’ finds Levon at his most jocund: playful accordian, walking bassline and radiant mandolin combine impeccably for this glittering number.
A euphoric gospel choir-enhanced ‘I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free’ brings proceedings to a jubilant finish. Divine.
Key Track: ‘Stuff You Gotta Watch’