Ramble at the Ryman
Released May 17, 2011 on Vanguard Records
He’s over seventy years old now, and still nothing quite gets in the way of Levon Helm‘s tenacious desire to make music. Arguably one of the two most notable people to ever call such a little place like Turkey Scratch, Arkansas, home. The other being the legendary Robert Lockwood, Jr. Ramble at the Ryman, the newest release from Helm, is a live album. Capturing the essence of the old time medicine shows, he shares the stage with big name talent like Sheryl Crow, John Hiatt, Buddy Miller, and Billy Bob Thornton to name a few. With Helm handling vocals, drums, and the mandolin, Larry Campbell on guitar, and (Little) Sammy Davis on harmonica, it’s quite an impressive arcade of musicians.
Six of the fifteen tracks are oldies but goodies written by one of Helm’s original band mates from the Band, Robbie Robertson. Kicking off the show, is a lively version of “Ophelia”. It’s such a great song, and sets the mood for swingin’ good time. Wrapping up the album, we get to hear a fabulous rendition of “The Weight”, recorded with special guest vocalist, John Hiatt. And in between, fabulous performances of “Evangeline”, recorded with Sheryl Crow, “Rag Mama Rag”, and “The Shape I’m In”.
Harmonica aficionados should really enjoy the back to back tracks, “Fannie Mae” and “Baby Scratch My Back”. Davis owns the stage with his riveting harp playing. It’s just great to listen to. Other great listens include the chilling ballad, “A Train Robbery”. Helm sings his heart out on this one. Rounding out the rest of the album, is a very nice cover of Chuck Berry’s “Back to Memphis”.
This event is also available on DVD, which I plan to picking up sometime soon, because I love the CD so much.Phil Smith