With the recent passing of Levon Helm, it’s only right to pay tribute to The Band and their 1969 self-titled release. It was The Bandthat bridged the gap between traditional Americana roots music (Appalachia, folk, country) and soul music (R&B and blues) that African Americans created in the early 20th century. The beauty of The Band was the group’s ability to beautifully, and effortlessly, fuse these different styles of music – illustrating their earnest commonality despite the fact that they were traditionally celebrated and listened to by people from contrasting social and economic classes.
The Band is a tribute to and reflection of these people, their stories, and the music they created. Each song takes the listener to a different place musically and thematically. From the 18th century frontier theme of “Across The Great Divide” to the Appalachian jug band harmonies of “When You Awake”, The Band encapsulates the raw beauty and story line of a past America. On the ballads “Whispering Pines” and “Unfaithful Servant”, The Band takes inspiration from blues and soul legend Ray Charles, singing each song with an emotion that grips the listener the first time they listen to it. The album’s crown jewel “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” tells the story of the final days of the civil war as seen through the lens of a poor Confederate soldier – who is fighting on behalf of an upper class that he isn’t even a part of – and the sorrow of defeat. Such themes of humanity set against the rich, multidimensional soundtrack of a past America make The Band the great album that it was in 1969 and still is today.