Last Saturday, after the movie and the party, just when I thought I was going back to Nina's for the night, she arranges for me to be swept up and taken to Levon Helm's Midnight Ramble, compliments of Mark and Karen. This just doesn't happen often enough in the woods of Massachusetts and I spend a little time adjusting back to “Woodstock legs.” The ones that keep you upright through the unpredictable.
Oddly, the guests for the evening were Chris and Lorin Rowan, who played with brother Peter many a night in the late 70s at Rancho Nicasio, the nightclub in Marin County that you may recall from my recent San Francisco post. What are the chances that 30 years later I’d walk into a barn on Plochman Lane in my hometown and find them playing? They still play often at Rancho Nicasio too.
Next up Levon. To zealous and loving applause he comes out and sits at the drums. He looks frail, and starch white, his dentures now too big for his throat cancer survivor thin face. But when he starts drumming it becomes clear that he is still the old master; always on time; eyes and smile communicating with fellow musicians; he is Levon. On doctor’s orders not to sing, he played his drums for us pa rum pum pum pum, and his mandolin too. His daughter Amy and a few guys in the band covered the vocals brilliantly for him.
Song highlights for me were a honky tonkish Simple Twist of Fate. It Makes No Difference, out no doubt to Ezra, brother of Amy, who died a week earlier, a suicide story as sad as any. And Cassandra Wilson, with her sweet deep jazz voice taking a few verses of The Weight. That song hasn’t sounded as good since the Staples got a hold of it.