Rick Danko

Times Like These

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Times Like These, released posthumously, is Rick Danko's last studio album. There's a tendency for fans to under-appreciate the singer/bassist's later work, opting instead for some sepia-toned memory of the Ontario farm boy amidst his original Band colleagues in the '60s and '70s -- but that's only part of the story of a 40-year career. Later in life, Danko's voice, while remaining the distinctly mournful instrument of his youth, mellowed to equal parts milk and whiskey. Here, a less urgent and wiser artist wraps his pipes around his signature tune "This Wheel's on Fire," which is drawn out on both ends by elegant instrumental passages. This version of the song is a fitting coda to Danko's life, lingered over lovingly and masterfully by the Crowmatix with Band cohort Garth Hudson, a veritable one-man Fellini soundtrack on accordion. "Let the Four Winds Blow," a Fats Domino/Dave Bartholomew cover recorded live, showcases Levon Helm on harmonica and longtime Danko and Band associate Professor "Louie" on piano and vocals, rolling and stomping in the finest spirit of the Band. "All Our Past Times," a return to a song the artist co-wrote with Eric Clapton in 1976, is wistfully gorgeous and heart-wrenchingly appropriate. And a cover of The Grateful Dead's "Ripple" -- with Hudson and Helm once again making appearances -- is delivered with the rustic charm of a back porch session (albeit a highly skilled one). While the album can drip with sentimentality or sound too polished at times, ultimately Times Like These, co-produced by Danko and Professor "Louie" (aka Aaron Hurwitz), is a thoughtfully rendered reflection on a great musical life.

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