With Levon Helm sidelined by an undisclosed medical procedure, his web site has announced that Donald Fagen of Steely Dan will be a special guest at previously scheduled Midnight Rambles on February 11, 18 and 25.
Helm, the Grammy-winning co-founding member of the Band, is expected to be out at least a month. He suffered through a bout with throat cancer in the late 1990s, though it remains unclear if this new procedure is because of a related issue.
Helm will appear at Midnight Rambles — loose-knit performances held at his home and studio, “the Barn,” in Woodstock, New York — already scheduled for Jan. 21 and 28 and Feb. 4, then resume touring in March. Fagen has been a previous guest at these Rambles, and has appeared with the Helm band elsewhere, as well.
Here’s a look back at our recent thoughts on Levon Helm. Click through the titles for complete reviews …
LEVON HELM – RAMBLE AT THE RYMAN (2011): We’re reminded again here that Levon Helm was the loamy voiced, rail-jumping rhythmic center point of the Band, its yearning storyteller and gritty soul. Their records were drawn from continuity, bringing in dizzyingly diverse, age-old influences and performed in a chorus as if by brothers. That has always made a treasure hunt out of selecting any individual triumph on their old records. Not here, as this Ramble becomes a showcase for Helm. It’s also an important reminder: The Band’s principal songwriting credits may have gone to Robbie Robertson, but they were then — and are here, again — often completely inhabited by Helm’s carnal Arkansas drawl.
LEVON HELM – ELECTRIC DIRT (2009): Nothing drove old Levon Helm down. Not the messy dissolution of his group, The Band; the perhaps inevitable subsequent financial ruin; a terrifying bout with throat cancer; a pair of shatteringly tragic deaths within his inner circle; or a yawning quarter century span between solo records that made him all but obscure in modern musical circles. There is, of course, a dark and deep sense of loss — this candid accounting of, and quiet mourning for, the old times, the old ways, the old friends that fans of some of The Band’s best-known Helm-sung tunes (“The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” “The Weight,” and “Up on Cripple Creek”) will recognize. But Helm sings with the bone-deep confidence of someone who has eyeballed our biggest fears and lived to tell the tale.
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