A few years ago, I was sitting on a Mississippi River levee in Helena, Arkansas with a few thousand other people, listening to the bands put it down at the King Biscuit blues fest, when I looked over to my left and — lo and behold, there was Levon Helm.
He was sitting in a lawn chair next to another man I did not know, and nobody was seemed to recognize Helena’s most famous son (although Sonnyboy Williamson II and some others might dispute that) and he was digging the music on the stage.
He couldn’t sing then and he could barely talk. I tried not to think too much about that, or to act like the pathetic fanboy that I was, or to mention to him that I always bugged the drummers I played with to sound more like Levon Helm, and I resisted the urge to be the 10,428th person to tell him that The Weight, Evangeline and The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down were among my favorite songs of all time.
Levon was recovering from throat cancer. I thought I had heard his last notes as a singer. I hadn’t.
I caught Levon a few months ago when he appeared on Don Imus’ show — and was shocked when he sang. He sounded just like Levon, only older, and he said he was putting together an album.
And here it is. It’s called Dirt Farmer and it is shockingly great, especially if you are a sucker for all music Americana (and I am). Go buy it now.