With Levon Helm sidelined by an undisclosed medical procedure, his web site has announced that Donald Fagen of Steely Dan will be a special guest at previously scheduled Midnight Rambles on February 11, 18 and 25.
Helm, the Grammy-winning co-founding member of the Band, is expected to be out at least a month. He suffered through a bout with throat cancer in the late 1990s, though it remains unclear if this new procedure is because of a related issue.
Helm will appear at Midnight Ramblesloose-knit performances held at his home and studio, the Barn," in Woodstock, New Yorkalready scheduled for Jan. 21 and 28 and Feb. 4, then resume touring in March. Fagen has been a previous guest at these Rambles, and has appeared with the Helm band elsewhere, as well.
Here's a look back at our recent thoughts on Levon Helm. Click through the titles for complete reviews ...
LEVON HELMRAMBLE AT THE RYMAN (2011): We're reminded again here that Levon Helm was the loamy voiced, rail-jumping rhythmic center point of the Band, its yearning storyteller and gritty soul. Their records were drawn from continuity, bringing in dizzyingly diverse, age-old influences and performed in a chorus as if by brothers. That has always made a treasure hunt out of selecting any individual triumph on their old records. Not here, as this Ramble becomes a showcase for Helm. It's also an important reminder: The Band's principal songwriting credits may have gone to Robbie Robertson, but they were thenand are here, againoften completely inhabited by Helm's carnal Arkansas drawl.
LEVON HELMELECTRIC DIRT (2009): Nothing drove old Levon Helm down. Not the messy dissolution of his group, The Band; the perhaps inevitable subsequent financial ruin; a terrifying bout with throat cancer; a pair of shatteringly tragic deaths within his inner circle; or a yawning quarter century span between solo records that made him all but obscure in modern musical circles. There is, of course, a dark and deep sense of lossthis candid accounting of, and quiet mourning for, the old times, the old ways, the old friends that fans of some of The Band's best-known Helm-sung tunes ("The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down," The Weight," and Up on Cripple Creek") will recognize. But Helm sings with the bone-deep confidence of someone who has eyeballed our biggest fears and lived to tell the tale.