Levon Helm: Still Keening After All These Years

Monday's Pick

  • Song: "Stuff You Gotta Watch"
  • Artist: Levon Helm
  • CD: Electric Dirt
  • Genre: Folk-Rock

When Levon Helm was a young man singing with The Band, just about every critic used two adjectives to describe his voice: "lyrical" and "keening." His clear tenor could build beautiful melody lines, and it had an appealing pungency at its high end.

Levon Helm 300

Muddy Waters' "Stuff You Gotta Watch" is a good match for Levon Helm's roughed-up tenor. courtesy of the artist hide caption

itoggle caption courtesy of the artist

After being zapped by radiation during a 1990s bout with throat cancer, Helm's vocal cords have accumulated a few dings and crags. Plus, they're 69 years old. But they haven't retired, as evidenced by Electric Dirt, his follow-up to the Grammy-winning Dirt Farmer.

On Electric Dirt, "Stuff You Gotta Watch" is a good match for Helm's roughed-up tenor. An upbeat Muddy Waters blues song, the tongue-in-cheek "Stuff" offers a warning for guys who date bad women — the kind who'll "spend your dough and drink your gin." Setting the pace with his rollicking drums and accompanied by a down-home accordion, Helm brings swagger and verve to the song. A listener can hear how happy he is, after all he's been through, to open his mouth and keen.

Listen to yesterday's Song of the Day, and subscribe to the Song of the Day newsletter.

Purchase Featured Music

Electric Dirt

Purchase Music

Purchase Featured Music

Album
Electric Dirt
Artist
Levon Helm
Label
Welk
Released
2009

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?

 

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.