The Highland Ramble-Levon Helm comes to Rochester
The other great surprise was that the music was better than I ever imagined.
I'm speaking as of a huge fan of The Band. It never occurred to me that Levon and his band could match the Southern Pine/Canadian rock The Band had at the top of their game. I underestimated Levon, and his band.
A while back I mentioned the impact a venue can have on a show. In the case of the Midnight Ramble, the venue is undeniable. Levon's own home recording studio. Made for sound. Small, intimate, impeccable. The audience is part of the show, virtually on stage with the musicians.
Still, the music has to be right.
I had seen Larry Campbell play solo acoustic guitar pieces a few years earlier. He had released a solo cd of instrumentals called "Rooftops", and played a number of tunes from that in a small outdoor tent. It is a beautiful record. His live versions were better.
Mr. Campbell also produced Levon's daughter's, band's, Olabelle, cd. Amy Helm and Olabelle performed as well, and Amy joined her dad for his extended set.
This band matched The Band on stage. Horns, female singers, bass, keyboards, accordion, great songs, and, most importantly, Levon strong in voice, and lifting the music with his drums. From duets on mandolin (Nothing like a father/daughter country duet), to full blown horns on "Ophelia".
Levon is at Highland Bowl on July 12 at 4 pm. I assume his touring band features many of the same players as the Ramble. Larry Campbell will be there playing with Phil Lesh. Good chance he'll be on with Levon, too, I imagine.
The Ramble is a one-of-a-kind listening experience. There is nothing else like it. Levon, and the music of The Band, also one-of-a-kind. His voice is still vital and the songs resonate. The Ramble is in Woodstock, this may be the next best thing, and, possibly, the last best chance to hear him in Rochester.