A Celebration of Richard, Rick & LevonLevon Helm Studios, September 21, 2012
by Adam Betley
This joyous Midnight Ramble was recently held at Levon Helm Studios, Woodstock, New York. The evening began with manager Barbara O'Brien announcing this special celebration of three musical souls: the late Richard Manuel, Rick Danko and Levon Helm. Everyone drew up a chair to Levon's Catskill bluestone fireplace and sat down. Yamaha and Roland keyboards, a Hammond B3 organ, two accordions and a grand piano waited silently. The guest of honor was the legendary multi-instrumentalist and a founding member of The Band, Garth Hudson. It was among the finest nights of music the barn has ever seen.
Jimmy Vivino Presents "The Band Songs", with special guest Garth Hudson, is a truly exceptional collaboration. These musicians share a great deal of history together. Vivino (piano/keyboards/guitar/vocals) and Byron Isaacs (electric bass/vocals), members of the Levon Helm Band, have been part of the Midnight Rambles since they began in 2004. Jim Weider (electric guitar/mandolin/vocals) and Randy Ciarlante (drums/percussion/vocals), longtime members of The Band's final incarnation, have been playing together since the mid 1980s. This concert was a special encore event featuring Mr. Hudson, a true musical genius, on keyboards, organ, accordion and piano. This group skillfully conjured up the images, spirits and voices of The Band once again. These cohorts based their repertoire on a series of masterwork recordings: Music From Big Pink (1968), The Band (1969), Stage Fright (1970), Cahoots (1971) and The Basement Tapes. The group performed inspired arrangements of classic tracks, deep cuts and rare treasures. Intricate rhythms, powerful bottom end, smoking electric guitar and group vocals filled the air. Beautiful washes of keyboard sounds and textures just poured from the music. The evening reached an emotional peak with Sister Maud Hudson on vocals, whose passionate voice and delivery moved the audience. "We love you Richard, Rick and Levon. We miss you."
These musicians brought this music to life, honoring the original versions while contributing their unique personalites. The arrangements featured well crafted vocal harmonies, added instrumental passages, and exciting dynamic changes. The brilliant Garth Hudson, deeply admired by musicians and fans, is now the beloved caretaker of The Band's musical legacy. These songs, as well as duo performances, instrumental pieces and collaborations, must continue at Levon Helm Studios. It would be wonderful to see a live CD/DVD release, an extended tour, and future special events from this ensemble. The support from fans will be essential for shows like this one to continue. As my father and I visited with the Hudsons at a local restaurant after the show, we thought of Garth's legendary career and immeasurable musical talents. He enjoys telling stories about his friends Richard, Rick and Levon, so they never seem to be very far from his thoughts. I am so fortunate to know this master musician, a kind, funny, intelligent and very humble musical soul. Thank you so much, Garth & Sister Maud, for everything! Keep It Goin'!
Caledonia Mission, The Weight (grand piano), We Can Talk, The Genetic Method / Chest Fever, This Wheel's On Fire
Across The Great Divide, Up On Cripple Creek, Whispering Pines, Rockin' Chair (Hammond B3), Look Out Cleveland, Jawbone, King Harvest (Has Surely Come)
Strawberry Wine (Hammond B3), Sleeping, Time To Kill, Just Another Whistle Stop, The Shape I'm In (Hammond B3), The Rumor
Life Is A Carnival (Hammond B3), When I Paint My Masterpiece (accordion)
I Ain't Got No Home (accordion), Goin' To Acapulco (accordion)
Tears Of Rage (grand piano), It Makes No Difference (grand piano)