One of the things I do with my spare time is volunteer at the Old Town School Of Folk Music. It’s not a bad deal, you help out with a show (usually as an usher) and you get to see most of the show for free. And they give you points you can redeem for classes.
This past weekend I worked a special event at OTS, the Blue Jean Gala. It’s a fundraiser they run every year and this year they brought Levon Helm’s Midnight Ramble to town for two nights. I was able to see almost all of the Friday show, which was fantastic. The guy standing next to me kept complaining about how disappointed he was in what he got for his $250 ticket, but I think his expectations were just out of line.
Shawn Mullins “Sunday Morning Coming Down” (Ray Stevens)
Shawn Mullins was the opening act Saturday night and he was also scheduled to sit in with Mr. Helm’s band during their set. The Saturday show is going to end way too late for me to comment here about his performance.
Robert Palmer “Sailing Shoes” (Little Feat)
Barrere & Fred Tackett from Little Feat opened up Friday night, playing as an acoustic duo. They also sat in with Mr. Helm’s band.
Most people have forgotten (or never known) that Robert Palmer had a career as a suave R&B artist before he did “Addicted To Love.” The album version of this song is part of a larger ten-minute medley, here we have a greatest-hits-album friendly edit that features just the one song, which is why it cuts off rather abruptly at the end.
Smash Mouth “Do It Again” (Steely Dan)
Donald Fagen of Steely Dan performed as a member of Mr. Helm’s band. I was impressed at how good he was at playing roots music since Steely Dan’s music is so sophisticated and jazzy.
Smash Mouth is my secret shame and my guilty pleasure. One night when I was flipping channels on my TV I stumbled across them playing live. And I was impressed despite my best efforts not to be. I understand that they traffic in dumb frat-boy rock, but it appeals to me for some reason.
Sherie Rene Scott, Lindsay Mendez & Betsy Wolfe “The Weight” (The Band)
Levon Helm of course came to the public’s attention as part of The Band. This was the big show closer Friday night, with the opening act coming out onto a very crowded stage.
This song is very popular with gospel and soul performers. I heard Mavis Staples play it in a tiny little bar a couple of years ago. This version is very still at first but builds up quite the head of steam.
Levon Helm and the RCO All Stars “Got My Mojo Working” (Muddy Waters)
I couldn’t do this post without a song from the man himself. Mr. Helm looks rather frail these days, but he played and sang with an energy that belied his appearance.
This is a difficult song to cover because it’s been done to death by every two-bit cover band in the world and everybody knows what it’s “supposed” to sound like. Fortunately in this case the RCO All Stars includes Dr. John, who brings the gris-gris swamp voodoo to bear on the old warhorse. Yeah it’s the second week in a row for the good doctor, but that’s never a bad thing.