Ever have one of those days when you’re tired of rock and roll? Maybe the day you took that Chickenfoot CD home, listened and said “eh.” It might be time to get back to yer roots, boy.
Levon Helm has released his second album since beating throat cancer, and Electric Dirt couldn’t be a more appropriate title. This sequel to his acclaimed Dirt Farmer album is more, ah, electric, with joyous covers of blues and gospel and a detour through the Louisiana swamplands. Kicking off with a cover of the Grateful Dead’s “Tennessee Jed,” the album’s first half recreates some of Farmer‘s Appalachian feel, with a highlight coming in the earthy “Growing Trade,” a sad tale about the American farmer. But with the Allen Toussaint-arranged “Kingfish” (a Randy Newman song about the infamous Huey P. Long), Helm steers into the same territory covered by the Band in their heyday. Unlike Elvis Costello’s current dead-on-arrival roots exercise, Electric Dirt is the real deal.
Son Volt is one of the bands that rose from the ashes of Americana darlings Uncle Tupelo, and their newest, American Central Dust plows the same rich earth as Levon’s Americana. And with the gently loping “Roll On” or the safely rockin’ “Jukebox Of Steel,” Son Volt doesn’t stray far from their strengths. You can always bet frontman Jay Farrar will crank out a few gems per album, and he doesn’t disappoint: “Dust Of Daylight” and the aforementioned titles are worth hitting the repeat button for.