The only non-Canadian member of that legendary 1960s and 70s rock group the Band, Levon Helm grew up in rural Arkansas listening to country music and blues, and those early influences are evident on his first solo studio album in 25 years. It marks a new era for the singer and drummer, who has regained his voice after treatment for throat cancer and now holds regular shows at his studio in Woodstock where this was recorded. His gently driving percussion work, so important for the Band's success, is still there, and his singing is helped by the impressive harmony work of his daughter Amy.
If Levon Helm's first studio album in 25 years strikes an overly joyous chord, it's not without good reason. Diagnosed with throat cancer in 1998, the backbeat of the Band was left bankrupt and voiceless, slowly recovering from both with Midnight Rambles at his studio-barn in Woodstock. Dirt Farmer thus proves a revelation, not only through Helm's amazingly rich vocals but also in the return to his Arkansas roots with a perspective and emotion that testifies to perseverance and faith.