Americana royalty salutes Levon Helm

Music Features Levon Helm
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Levon_Helm_1.jpgThe Band deserves as much credit as anyone for inventing the country-rock subgenre we now know as Americana, so it made sense that this year’s Americana Music Association conference kicked off Wednesday night here in Nashville with a tribute to The Band’s drummer/singer Levon Helm.Levon_Helm_Miller_Crow.jpg[Above: Levon Helm, Buddy Miller and Sheryl Crow]

Krauss and Robert Plant.
Levon_Helm_Davis_Hiatt.jpg[Above: Little Sammy Davis and John Hiatt]

Wearing a blue button-down shirt tucked into dark slacks, Helm opened the show with “Ophelia,” an old Band chestnut, in an arrangement filled out by a nimble four-piece horn section. The rest of the setlist bounced around—it included material from Helm’s 2007 album Dirt Farmer (“Wide River To Cross”) and from The Band’s catalog (“The Weight”) and from the roots music standards songbook (“No Depression,” “Sitting On Top Of The World”). Krauss and Plant performed the Leadbelly song (“In The Pines”) that Nirvana re-christened as “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” on its Unplugged album. The show had a couple moments of unintentional comedy—McClinton was announced as “one of the most soulful men to come out of this country,” and Krauss and Plant sported strikingly similar haircuts—but the overall vibe was warm and reverent.
Levon_Helm_and_Co.jpg[Buddy Miller, Billy Bob Thornton and Levon Helm]
four people. And at the very end—for an encore of Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young”—it swelled to 20 sidemen, plus trusty ol’ Levon.