Something Else! sneak peek: The Levon Helm Band, “The Same Thing” (2014)

And there he is: Levon Helm swinging again, in all of his groaning, yelping, easy-going, era-defying, down-home glory — singing with a salacious wit, and an oaken wisdom … about a woman wearing a too-tight dress.

That’s the majesty, and the lip-smackingly unadulterated fun, that Helm brought to every performance, beginning back when future (and far more famous) collaborator Bob Dylan was still just an irascible school boy. Of course, it could have been still further back, so ageless is that sound, so elemental to everything that gives roots music its resonance. That’s Levon Helm.

To have an opportunity to enjoy it again — this time, Helm is getting into the very marrow of a Willie Dixon song that he and the Band memorably covered on 1993’s Jericho — is an immeasurable gift some two years after the singing drummer’s too-soon passing.

And “The Same Thing,” as the lead track from the forthcoming Midnight Ramble Sessions Volume 3, is just the beginning of what’s in store. Due July 1, 2014 via Vanguard, and featuring guest performances by Allen Toussaint (long-time friend, of course, of the Band), Chris Robinson and Elvis Costello, this new in-concert set is stuffed with previously unreleased 2005-2010 performances from Helm’s Barn, each of them a newfound treasure.

Nick DeRiso

Over a 30-year career, Nick DeRiso has also explored music for USA Today, All About Jazz, Ultimate Classic Rock and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the nation by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Contact him at