Levon Helm

Ramble at the Ryman

By Bill Beuttler
Globe Correspondent / May 17, 2011

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Levon Helm’s “Midnight Rambles’’ in Woodstock, N.Y., have become nearly as legendary as Helm. Occasionally, he takes the party to larger venues, as evidenced by this fabulous live CD (also available on DVD). This concert took place in September 2008, between the release of Helm’s Grammy-winning albums “Dirt Farmer’’ and “Electric Dirt,’’ and his voice remains strong. As with the Band, Helm blends blues, rock ’n’ roll, country, gospel, bluegrass, and folk into high-octane American roots music. A third of the 15 tunes here were written by his onetime Band-mate Robbie Robertson. Two more are from “Dirt Farmer,’’ and others include classics from Chuck Berry, the Carter Family, and special guest Buddy Miller. Additional guests are bluesman Little Sammy Davis, Sheryl Crow, and John Hiatt. Then there’s Helm’s killer band. Brian Mitchell stands out on piano and organ and sings a raspy lead on “The Shape I’m In.’’ Larry Campbell is casually brilliant on guitar and fiddle, adding lead vocals on “Deep Elem Blues’’ and “Chest Fever.’’ (Out today)

ESSENTIAL “A Train Robbery’’