Levon Helm Ramble at the Ryman

Levon Helm Ramble at the Ryman
Roots music legend Helm has long welcomed musical friends to weekly concerts (the Midnight Ramble) at his Woodstock hometown. In 2008, he held one such show at the famed Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, and the results are now out on CD (and a live DVD). Guest artists include Sheryl Crow, John Hiatt, Buddy Miller, Billy Bob Thornton and Sam Bush, while the Levon Helm Band feature daughter Amy Helm, guitar great Larry Campbell, blues singer/harpist Sammy Davis (he shines on "Fannie Mae") and a four-piece horn section that really beef up the sound. Helm has always possessed an old soul of a voice, one further ravaged by father time, but it remains a warm, honest aural pleasure. Six Band classics are reprised, with highlights including a full-blooded take on "Rag Mama Rag" and a scorching version of "Chest Fever." Buddy Miller shines on a version of his and Julie Miller's "Wide River To Cross," an album highlight. But Crow's take on A.P. Carter's "No Depression In Heaven" is mediocre. A number of styles are covered, from blues to Chuck Berry rock'n'roll ("Back To Memphis") to bluegrass and country, but we'd expect nothing less from a Band luminary. (Vanguard)