CD Review: The Weight Band “World Gone Mad”

The Weight Band, a band that has several connections to the late, great Levon Helm, has taken influences from that musician/songwriter and created music with his influence. The Weight Band is currently on tour in support of their newly-released album entitled World Gone Mad.

It was back in 1964 that an established band would set out on their own, create their own direction, and create a legacy that would lead them to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It was after being the backing band for Ronnie Hawkins that the members of what had become known as The Hawks would continue on as The Band, a group that would gain their own notoriety as the backing band for Bob Dylan and would gain a large following in their newly-adopted country of the United States.

As The Band, they had a nice run after racking up a large amount of hits, which included the Number 1 Hit “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”. But the band would be relatively short-lived as the members would go their separate ways for good in 1999.

While The Band would no longer continue on as a group, drummer and lead singer Levon Helm would gather together a group of musicians and the Levon Helm Band was born. The Levon Helm Band would continue to produce hits for Helm. But in 2012, Levon Helm would pass away as a result of the throat cancer he had.

The legacy of both The Band and The Levon Helm Band continues today. It was because of Jim Weider (formerly of The Band who had joined that group as the replacement for Robbie Robertson on lead guitar) and some other musicians got together to perform some of Helm’s songs as part of a tribute to Helm. Eventually, The Weight Band (a group that takes their name from “The Weight,” a song originally recorded on released on The Band’s album Music from Big Pink. The current lineup of The Weight Band consists of: Jim Weider (guitar, mandolin & vocals) of The Band, Michael Bram (drums & vocals) Brian Mitchell (keyboards & vocals) (current member of Levon Helm’s Midnight Ramble Band), Matt Zeiner (keyboard & vocals) Albert Rogers plays (bass and vocals).

Having created a band around musicians that spent time within The Band and The Levon Helm Band as well as The Midnight Ramble Band, a musical outfit put together as a Tribute Band of sorts to Helm, it should come as no surprise that the resulting sound that is created by The Weight Band can be described as being “picking up where The Band left off”. That truly does describe the sound and feel of World Gone Mad, the first official album from the supergroup. After spending a few years on the road touring, The Weight Band released their first album. That album is entitled World Gone Mad. And “picking up where The Band left off” is quite possibly the best way of describing the feel of the album.

World Gone Mad by The Weight Band begins with the title track off of the release. “World Gone Mad” finds the band combining elements of Folk music and Rock and Roll to create a Folk-Rock track. The mandolin from band founder Jim Weider is the focal point to the music that contains a strong, driving pace to it. The use of the electric guitar near the middle of the track adds a lot of Rock and Roll influences to the otherwise laidback feel to the music. Although it contains more of a Folk flavor to it, “World Gone Mad” has the same type of feel as “Losing My Religion” from R.E.M.

It is on the track of “Fire in the Hole” that a rather familiar feel hits the listener. The track combines Blues, Rock and Folk influences together to form a sound that is unmistakable reminiscent of something that would have been released by The Band. In fact, you could almost imagine the vocals on the track being handled Levon Helm himself. The track’s lyrics deal with the current political feel of the world as they deal with talking to the president about the state of the world. Because of the political feel to the lyric and the music reminiscent of The Band, you could easily see this track having been created The Band back around the time of the Woodstock Music Festival.

The Weight Band continues their new release with the track “Deal”. While the first two tracks have Folk or Folk-Rock feel to them, “Deal” comes across as more of a Rock and Roll track that could have created by another Rock Hall inductee Bob Seger. In fact, “Deal” feels very much in the same vein of music as Seger’s “Old Time Rock and Roll”. That easily could have something to do with the retro feel of both “Deal” from The Weight Band and Seger’s “Old Time Rock and Roll”. The track features the playing of ex-Black Crowes guitarist Jackie Greene who adds guitar to The Weight Band’s cover of the track that was made famous by Jerry Garcia and the rest of the Grateful Dead.

Much of the new release from The Weight Band consists of original tracks. But the group does take a few moments in their album to explore other writers. One particular track on their World Gone Mad release that comes from a different source is the track “I Wish You Were Here Tonight”. Having been recorded by Rock Hall Inductee Ray Charles, the new version of the song by The Weight Band doesn’t stray too far from the original version of the track. While the version from Charles was Soul-based, the new interpretation by The Weight Band adds a little more Blues feel to the music. The new version of “I Wish You Were Here Tonight” by The Weight Band is a nice updating of the track.

Speaking of adding more Blues feel to their music, the track “Common Man” finds The Weight Band bringing back a bit of the feel from their song “Deal” for the track. And just like “Deal,” there’s a definitely Roots feel to the music. The track seems to also bring some of the mindset found on “Fire in the Hole” back again. Just like that track, the lyrics on “Common Man” contain a certain amount political feel to them.

After an entire ten tracks of studio tracks, The Weight Band brings World Gone Mad to a close with “The Remedy,” a live track. The track features the band playing the track, which again brings to mind the feel of a Bob Seger tune, live in concert. The way the track feels, you would think that the song was recorded in the studio with how solid the playing by the group is. The only telltale sign that the track was actually recorded live in concert is the sound of the audience at the end of the track, which brings the release to a close.

On their new album entitled World Gone Mad, the individual members of The Weight Band each show off their individual influences. And since many of the players in the band can claim to have played with The Band’s Levon Helm in one band or another, it is easy to see why the influence from Helm has made such an impression on the music of The Weight Band. And with that being said, if you have ever been a fan of the music from The Band, this collection of songs from musicians who used to play with him in one manner or another help to expand upon what has come before. While this is not a tribute album in any way, the influence from Helm is more than apparent.

 

For More information, check out Michael J. Media, the PR firm for The Weight Band. 

To experience some of the music from The Weight Band, check out the title track off of World Gone Mad.