The Midnight Ramble Sessions Vol. 3
Dear old Levon – that voice, magical drummer, surely one of the all-time greatest singing-drummers (even if that’s not a huge category, nor sought-after award). Ronnie Hawkins & The Hawks, The Band, sitting in with Ringo’s All-Starr band, recording with Neil Young, Clapton and others. Making some great film (and TV) appearances – and then towards the end of his career a brace of really fine studio albums (Dirt Farmer and Electric Dirt) and a series of shows dubbed The Midnight Ramble Sessions. Too weak to tour Levon bought the show home, staging impromptu-feel revues with all-star bands.
There’s an extra poignancy to the third released in the Midnight Ramble Sessions series knowing it’s one of the last projects Helm was involved with – at the, er, helm of…
And though he’s only on a few of the cuts, vocally – no doubt slowed right down, struggling, there’s a wonderful feel-good vibe across some surprising cover versions here. A New Orleans slow-strut is applied to Dylan’s Simple Twist of Fate – and if you think that’s not going to work you’ve got to hear it. Brian Mitchell sells it so well.
Further highlights arrive with Allen Toussaint singing (and piano-playin’) on A Certain Girl and Chris Robinson (Black Crowes) does his thing on a version of Shake Your Money Maker, a song he’s owned so many times of course.
The closing Take Me To The River even manages to take in some of that “Last Waltz”-styled feel – for this is the last waltz really. And that’s the reason you’ll seek this out. Because Levon was great. And his Midnight Ramble shows were a big part of his story, him giving back; that wonderful gift of music. As soon as the disc opens with The Same Thing, that signature feel and sound in place you’ll be fighting back the tears – in some sense. If you were (and still are) a fan.