In a world of change it’s good to know there was one guy from Arkansa keeping the beat. There was one man telling the stories of the working man and woman, songs of tractors and mining and logging and the men and women scratching a living out of the earth.
Of course that guy at one point was a coked out rock star living the high life and heading for disaster as fast as he could. He survived the rock and roll lifestyle a back stabbing songwriting pal and cancer to scratch his own little bit of sanity in Woodstock New York. He was also smart enough not to go on the road with Dylan as he took his electric band out. His rambles were legendary and the artists that turned up to play and support him through his illness were some of the back bone of American roots music.
With a new documentary coming out about The Band, and well, Robbie Robertson and the band I thought it was time to remind myself how great Leon Helm’s album Dirt Farmer was and is. Songs of honest work, degradation, poverty, love and tractors, what more could a lover of music need. There are mandolins, fiddles, and damn that Levon Helm drumming, always on the one and rocking and reeling as you may need. Watching Levon Helm sing was an experience, he always seemed to be living and feeling every word and thought he was singing about.
Dirt Farmer is an homage to the American mid-west farmers without being sentimental, its full of honest songs about a way of life that was disappearing when the album came out and is now almost extinct as corporations take over food production and farmers become producers and families no longer work the land together, of course thats a fantasy either way you see it. It’s also probably the best solo album from a former member of The Band.