Levon Helm

Electric Dirt

A “barncore” genre may not yet exist, and if it did, it’s unlikely the leading practitioners would promote their deeply emotional output with lengthy tours. Seems themes of home, soil and survival are best conveyed when one remains dedicated to tending figurative and literal roots.

The Details

Our Fathers Bleed History
Three and a half stars
Beyond the Weekly
Levon Helm

While 2007’s Dirt Farmer was Levon Helm’s first studio album in 25 years, the Traditional Folk Album Grammy winner and symbolic middle finger to a bout with throat cancer was also a somewhat sparse, subdued Americana affair, regulated to far slower tempos and lacking most of the joyous heft characterized by the vocalist/drummer’s tenure in The Band. But as the title implies, Electric Dirt injects serious juice into the wide-ranging collection of originals and choice covers.

Such boldfaced names as Randy Newman (ragtime ruminator “Kingfish,” with horn arrangements by New Orleans icon Allen Toussaint), Muddy Waters (“Stuff You Gotta Watch,” “You Can’t Lose What You Ain’t Never Had”) and Jerry Garcia (rollicking opener “Tennessee Jed”) receive due credit, as do Helm’s own songwriting chops on “Growing Trade,” a harmony-drenched ode to compassionate cultivation. The list grows, as do heaping shovelfuls of soul, blues, gospel and straight-ahead rock. It’s a lot to take in, but Helm ultimately delivers a bountiful harvest.


Julie Seabaugh

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