[Slowhand] EC to record with Robbie Robertson

John Mills turbineltd at btconnect.com
Sat Feb 9 08:23:40 EST 2008


Toronto singer-songwriter-guitarist Robbie Robertson is having a good year.

His hugely influential Canadian-American outfit known simply as The Band is
getting a Grammy lifetime achievement award tonight at a special invite-only
ceremony in L.A. leading up to tomorrow night's Grammy Awards at the Staples
Center (CBS/Global).

And then there is an upcoming Order Of Canada ceremony in Ottawa.

And he's also making a record with long-time friend Eric Clapton starting
next month in London.

"We've been talking about doing it a long time and we've messed around with
the idea in the past and now we just decided to roll up our sleeves," said
Robertson, 64, down the line from his L.A.-area studio this week.


"We're just feeling it now, so we're going to take action, and I'm really
looking forward to it. He's somebody that I have such respect for and he's
such a great old friend and been a supporter for so long and everything, so
it's good stuff. We've already started writing."

An even bigger irony is that at the height of The Band's success from 1967
to 1976, Clapton was so enamoured of their rock-country-soul sound that he
actually wanted to join the group. George Harrison was also a famous fan.

"Right away, it became an extremely influential musical entity, The Band's
music, and really made a big contribution years ago to the direction of
music at the time, because it really went against the grain to most things
that were happening," Robertson said.

Made up of four Canucks -- singer-guitarist Robertson, singer-bassist Rick
Danko, singer-pianist Richard Manuel and organist Garth Hudson and lone
American singer-drummer Levon Helm -- The Band were musician's musicians.

They first played with Ronnie Hawkins in Toronto before backing up Bob Dylan
during his controversial electric period and then recorded two of the late
'60s most-acclaimed albums: Their 1968 debut Music from Big Pink (The
Weight) -- which featured three songs written or co-written by Dylan -- and
1969's The Band (Up On Cripple Creek, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down).

"We weren't a group that got together and in two months we were trying to
get a record deal," Robertson said. "We were together for a long time and
really did our woodshedding and paid our dues, playing up in Canada, and
playing the Chitlin' circuit down south, and really honing our skills and
wanting to be good at what we did."

The Band has since been inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, the
Canadian Music Hall Of Fame and named among Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest
Artists of All Time.

Unbelievably, tonight's lifetime achievement Grammy will be their first
Grammy and Robertson said he was clearly surprised by the honour.

"A few things go through your head. One of the things is: it's better to get
one than to not. And the other thing is: it's better to be remembered than
forgotten," Robertson said cheekily. "When The Band was in the midst of
their period and everything, they didn't give Grammys to groups like us. It
was like Barbra Streisand or The Carpenters, you know, like a different type
of music."


Robertson, who hadn't spoken with surviving band members Helm and Hudson --
Manuel committed suicide in 1985 and Danko died in 1999 -- since the Grammy
honour was announced, was hoping to see them tonight.

Helm, 67, who has battled back from throat cancer, is also up for a best
traditional folk album Grammy tomorrow night for Dirt Farmer, his first solo
album in 25 years, an occurrence that Robertson calls "absolutely terrific."

"I had heard that he was doing a record of old Americana music, some of it
that he learned from his dad, and I can remember when some of these songs
came up years ago and a couple of them that we used to play together just
for fun ourselves," Robertson said.

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