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Dirt Farmer

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Audio CD, October 30, 2007
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Levon Helm's Dirt Farmer will be released
October 30 by Vanguard Records, his first solo, studio album in 25 years. The organic feel of the sessions hark back to his work with The Band and comes on the heels of a wave of attention for his Midnight Rambles, late night concerts held at Levon Helm Studios in Woodstock, NY.

It's a major landmark on a remarkable journey for Levon Helm. "The last few years have proven to me that we truly live in an age of miracles," writes Levon in the poignant liner notes. After arduous treatments for throat cancer that took away his singing voice and a fire that consumed over eighty percent of his recording studio, Helm was amazed to find both restored.

On Dirt Farmer, Helm's pays tribute to his family, singing traditional songs that he learned growing up in rural Arkansas. He also covers songs by Steve Earle and J.B. Lenoir; full of Dobros, mandolins and acoustic guitars, the album resonates deeply, honoring Levon's roots.

Multi-instrumentalist Larry Campbell (Bob Dylan, Lyle Lovett, Solomon Burke) and Levon's daughter Amy, also a member of Ollabelle, produced and shepherded the project at "The Barn," Levon Helm Studios. Levon himself plays drums, mandolin, and acoustic guitar and provides all lead vocals.

Levon Helm's early solo albums, made in the 1970s after the Band initially broke up, were hit-and-miss affairs, but his first solo studio release in 25 years represents a rich return to his Southern roots. With co-production and musical support from daughter Amy (of Ollabelle) and multi-instrumentalist Larry Campbell (long a mainstay of Bob Dylan's band), Helm gives organic unity and rough-hewn vitality to a selection of Cajun fiddle waltzes, country blues, hardscrabble folk, and some more contemporary material (from the likes of Steve Earle and Buddy and Julie Miller). Following his recovery from throat cancer, Helm's voice has a slightly different timbre, but his phrasing is unmistakable as the same vocalist who sang "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" and "Rag Mama Rag." With Amy providing harmony and duet vocals and Levon's drumming evoking his signature work with the Band, Helm takes material from a variety of sources and makes it all his own. --Don McLeese

Listen to Samples and Buy MP3s

Songs from this album are available to purchase as MP3s. Click on "Buy MP3" or view the MP3 Album.

Song Title Time Price
listen  1. False Hearted Lover Blues 3:29$1.29  Buy MP3 
listen  2. Poor Old Dirt Farmer 3:52$1.29  Buy MP3 
listen  3. The Mountain 3:35$1.29  Buy MP3 
listen  4. Little Birds 4:41$1.29  Buy MP3 
listen  5. The Girl I Left Behind 3:36$1.29  Buy MP3 
listen  6. Calvary 4:53$1.29  Buy MP3 
listen  7. Anna Lee 3:43$1.29  Buy MP3 
listen  8. Got Me a Woman 3:11$1.29  Buy MP3 
listen  9. A Train Robbery 5:28$1.29  Buy MP3 
listen10. Single Girl, Married Girl 3:19$1.29  Buy MP3 
listen11. The Blind Child 3:26$1.29  Buy MP3 
listen12. Feelin' Good 3:31$1.29  Buy MP3 
listen13. Wide River to Cross 4:51$1.29  Buy MP3 

Product Details

  • Audio CD (October 30, 2007)
  • Original Release Date: January 1, 2007
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Welk Music Group
  • ASIN: B000VG7M0O
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (162 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #11,920 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

82 of 85 people found the following review helpful By John Reynolds on November 1, 2007
Format: Audio CD
Levon Helm, the voice behind 'The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down' and 'The Weight,' is in fine form here. This music would have been good fifty years ago, and will be good fifty years from now. Levon's voice is perfect for these songs about life's sorrows and joys, full of perseverance and hope. The songs are real beauties with excellent traditional arrangements. I am a long-time fan of traditional folk, bluegrass, and blues music. What I liked best about this CD is that it is fresh, making these tunes vibrant and not museum pieces. Bravo!
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38 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Flight Risk (The Gypsy Moth) VINE VOICE on November 27, 2007
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
If you loved The Band way back when, then you will love this recording. There were those who considered Robbie Robertson the quintessence of The Band, but I always connected this voice with the greater output of the music from The Band - and, thirty years on...after winning a war with cancer...Levon Helm's raw, wide-open sound has not dissipated all that much.

This is real mountain music, presented in the manner it was meant to be - oral tradition through song. It's not possible for me to determine which songs are relatively new and which are old, old stories derivative of Celtic tradition, brought to the mountains generations ago from Scotland and Ireland. The yearning, sorrow, and loss of some of the songs is perfectly projected in Mr Helm's evocative country voice - False Hearted Lover Blues, typical of the mountain songs I learned as a child, with the title of the song being all you need to know; Anna Lee, about a young mother cut down heartbreakingly early. There are humourous songs as well, like Got Me a Woman, with the man in the song describing a woman perhaps not what you'd call a looker but high in character that just knocks his socks off; Single Girl, Married Girl, about the things that make these two so diametrically opposed. There's even a song about Frank and Jesse James (A Train Robbery). Some of the songs have a beat reminiscent of music from The Band; I heard shadows of "Ophelia" in one piece, and nuances of other songs, but it is clear here that this album is pure tradition, and that Mr Helm is very much enjoying himself in presenting to us the music he learned as a child.

After his successful fending off of a deadly disease that by all accounts should have robbed us of his characteristic howl, it is a wonder and a blessing that this album got to be made.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Mason on November 1, 2007
Format: Audio CD
Having been a fan of Levon's since the days of Ronnie Hawkins and The Hawks and having just been to one of his Rambles, I couldn't wait for the release of Dirt Farmer.
I've been listening to this CD almost non stop since I got it and I'm absolutely in love with it. With the help of daughter Amy Helm (vocalist with Ollabelle)and the incredible Larry Campell on guitar and fiddle, Dirt Farmer is the Real Deal. This is what music should be. Emotional, heartfelt and timeless. Dirt Farmer is a masterpiece,the work of a true musician.
The Weight has paid off
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Rick S. on November 5, 2007
Format: Audio CD
"Dirt Farmer" is well worth the wait since Levon Helm's last solo CD many years ago. If you're a fan of The Band or country roots music this one's for you. Levon's Arkansas drawl is better than ever following throat cancer surgery in 1999. His voice is bolstered by the heavenly harmonies of his daughter Amy Helm, Co-Producer, and Teresa Williams, wife of the other Co-Producer- Larry Campbell. Larry's virtuoso musicianship (fiddles, guitars, mandolin and dulcimer) is the icing on this cake.
Amy suggested to her Dad that they build this CD around the three traditional songs Levon's parents taught him when he was a child: "Little Birds," "The Girl I Left Behind"(one of my favorites), and "Blind Girl". "Single Girl, Married Girl" is another traditional song (by A.P. Carter, and one of Levon's and my favorites). The title cut is another traditional song and features the funniest line. Following a tractor accident, "now his head, shaped like a tread, but he ain't quite dead."
Levon taps some great songwriters here. Steve Earle contributes "The Mountain" with great harmonies by Buddy Miller and Julie Miller. Paul Kennerley contributes "A Train Robbery" and "Got Me A Woman" (another favorite, and a very funny lyric). Buddy Miller and Julie Miller's "Wide River To Cross" is Levon's masterpiece here, his greatest and most soulful vocal to date: "I'm only half-way home..." Levon is fully back and we're the thankful ones.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Jerkat1 on November 21, 2007
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
As a casul fan of The Band I purchased this product in the hopes of renewing my interest in their music. This recording has been something of a complete suprise to me. After reading the product description I was expecting a contempary take on some classic american music. However, this album sounds like it could have been recorded in the 50's. The sound itself is crystal clear, it's the interpretation of these songs that sends you back to an era complete with sawdust on the floor, someone playing a 'jug' bass, fiddles, juice harp, and a 'triangle'. All and all I've been pleasantly suprised, and the more I listen to it the more I find myself enjoying it. This is an album that I could easily sit around and listen to while playing cards with my Grandfather(RIP, love ya...) & Dad.

Considering all that Mr. Helm has been through these last 10 or so years his voice sounds remarkably well. You can hear the slight struggle in Levon's voice on the occasional note, but this only seems to add character to the song as opposed to being a distraction. If your a fan of The Band, or just plain good ol' american music you will not be dissapointed.
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