The Band’s eponymous second album from 1969 is a masterpiece:
The former Dylan backing band had stepped out on their own the year before, played Woodstock and landed a song in the soundtrack to the box office smash Easy Rider.
It’s ironic that this quintet, made up of four Canadians and a dude from Arkansas, pioneered the roots musical style that came to be called “Americana” (once record companies and radio needed a category in order to monetize it).
The group’s country-soul sound manages to be original; not mimicking either style. The vibe of this record is old-timey… with many songs harkening back to rural/southern U.S. settings and themes.
The hits, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down and Up On Cripple Creek remain in the classic rock radio rotation and are great anchors on side A of this record. But, there is an understated brilliance in the delivery of the vocals, all written or co-written by Robbie Robertson, of Richard Manuel on songs like Rocking Chair and Rick Danko on Unfaithful Servant.
All of this rests easily beneath the brilliantly inventive keyboard textures of Garth Hudson.
The Band went on to release several other albums, studio and live, original and covers, before calling it quits in arguably the most spectacular band breakup in history… filmed by Martin Scorsese, no less.
PS…Happy birthday Robbie Robertson!