Levon Helm was my favourite member of The Band: I loved his voice, his harmonies & his beard 🙂 In fact I often liked the dummer in the band – Keith Moon was hot. But I never got this drummer, lead singer thing. Drumming is more than keeping a beat, singing is more than getting the words in the right order. With The Band was emotive both singing & drumming. Plus there was that beard 😉
I have mp3s of Levon Helm and the RCO All-Stars, Levon Helm 1978, Levon Helm 1982. Much like The Band he tended towards Americana roots music as opposed to outright rock’n’roll or folk. Though I never felt engineers of these lps caught his voice the same way. Or perhaps his voice matured. The quality of the songwriting wasn’t as strong either. He retired from solo recording after his 1982 lp. He also shaved in 1982.
Then in 2007 he returned with the Grammy winning Dirt Farmer, followed that up in 2009 with Electric Dirt – which also won a Grammy. Impressive. His last release in 2012 was of a live 2008 concert &, you guessed it, it won a Grammy. He died in 2012 & I was deeply saddened.
Despite throat cancer his voice was still in fine shape for these last studio albums. They are warm, comfortable & innocent. The songs are emotive without being emotionally cloying – if anything a bit understated & clearly not pop music. They fall under the ‘Americana’ label but that merely reflects the USA’s music industry’s need to make everything about the USA. This is universal music.
Before The Inferno
The fire glowed golds, reds and yellows. The tree sparkled with reflections of the fire, ornaments of deeper red became burnished embers that nestled in the dark green. The lights twinkled smaller sparks of red, green, blue and pink.
Gifts wrapped in solid colours, in paper printed with poinsettias, people skiing, Santa flying, old Sunday comics, sat around and under the tree. Big, small, misshapen, long, thin, oblong, shapeless surprises. Some with ribbons, some with bows, some with tags and some without.
Over the fire place a collection of crystal angels, elves and fir trees nestled in white cotton batting. These too reflected the warm colours of the fire and seemed to take on a life of their own. One half expected the elves to start skating on the surface of the mirror behind them.
Stocking were hung awkwardly in the silver garland that was strung along the mantle. Each stocking puffed fat with more gifts. Thick red velvet. One made years ago by someone’s mother and then found in a yard sale. We’ll never know who Cecilia was, her name carefully sewn on in yellow glass bead, but we’ll always have her stocking here.
The couch covered with pillows and a comforter. It gets a bit cool in the evening watching TV, even with the fire going. The comforter patched several times. Clumsy cuts of fabric sewn with basic zig zag hand stitching. No attempt to get six in a inch, just enough thread to hold the patch on and the stuffing in. One patch an old favourite shirt, old jeans, a piece of cowboy curtain from some child’s room.
Tinsel crushed into the carpet can wait until the new year for removal. A bit of God’s decorating to liven up even the floor we walk on as we peer at cards strung over doors. Cards from friends we never see, family too far to see, faces barely remembered. One card the only connection between the two of us. When did I see him last? Didn’t even get to talk that time, or wave, walking in different directions on opposite sides of the street. In life, like we are in life.
The favourite card glistens satiny finish in the fire glow. Magi with gifts on a thick card of embossed red silver. Magi patient and still in the star light of the card. Again one expects them to move in the flicker of the fire light.
October 5/6/7 – Gratitude Round-Up
September or October but to be confirmed – feature – The Art Bar, Free Times Cafe
June – Capturing Fire 2019 – Washington D.C. capfireslam.org