There are few acts in history that embody peak roots and folk rock like The Band.
For those needing a music history lesson, The Band consisted of Richard Manuel, (vocals, piano) Rick Danko, (vocals, bass) Levon Helm, (vocals, drums) Garth Hudson, (organ) and Robbie Robertson (guitar). All but Helm (an Arkansas native) hailed from our neighbors to the north in Canada. They were “The Band” that backed Bob Dylan in his acoustic-to-electric heyday in the mid 60s, and they would soon find their own path, as they were too dynamic to simply be Bobby’s backers.
With timeless classics like “The Weight,” “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” “Up On Cripple Creek,” and numerous others, The Band catapulted themselves as one of the top tier “rock” bands in the world in the late 60s and early 70s. Hell, even Eric Clapton famously wanted to join them when he was floundering upon the breakup of Cream. The group even made the cover of Time Magazine on January 12th, 1970 in a most epic artist rendering. And then there was The Last Waltz in 1976; and if you don’t know, do yourself a favor. Their influence was like few others of that time.
Today, that influence still remains among many.
With a fresh 10th Anniversary Edition of Garth Hudson Presents a Canadian Celebration of The Band, the album boasts some of Canada’s finest roots and rock artists within The Great North paying homage to the group’s classic and more eclectic tunes, all with the help of Hudson himself. His whirling circus-like organ arrangements are one of a kind, and are executed as precisely on this album as ever before. He was touted as a musical genius, and the more you listen, the more you understand.
With the most notable collaborator on the album being none other than Neil Young, it also features other highly respected Canadian musicians such as Danny Brooks, Cowboy Junkies, Bruce Cockburn, and The Sadies among others.
It was The Sadies version of The Band’s hit, “The Shape I’m In,” off of their 1970 album Stage Fright, that caught my ear and led me to this treasure trove of re-imagined relics. The Toronto country-western rockers deliver this iconic number with a modern flare that both tips its hat to the classic, but delivers it in a new and exciting light. And just hearing Hudson’s organ laid beautifully underneath will draw goosebumps to Band fans far and wide. The Sadies knock this number out of the park, and lands at #11 on the album track listing.
Hudson is one of the last remaining pioneers of this massively influential group, with Robertson being the only other surviving member, and even getting the chance to write about him in this brief context is an honor.
Garth Hudson Presents a Canadian Celebration of The Band is a must-listen for all fans of The Band. And if you’re not familiar, do your ears a favor and indulge in their generational sonic magic. There’s still time to kill. What a thrill…