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Ramble at the Ryman: Levon Helm’s new live set should be your Dylan birthday primer

Ramble at the Ryman: Levon Helm’s new live set should be your Dylan birthday primer (photo)

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Deep Elem Blues by Vanguard Records

Bob Dylan turns 70 next week, an occasion that has been and will continue to be marked by opportunistic think pieces and reheated commentary concerning America’s most celebrated songwriter and arguably easiest target. Two days later, Levon Helm–the one-time Dylan drummer who backed the bard during his early electric days–will turn 71, an occasion that will doubtlessly be marked by much less ceremony and verbosity.

A week ahead of his old boss’s big day, though, Helm has released Ramble at the Ryman, a CD and DVD recording of a massive Sept. 2008 concert he hosted in Nashville’s legendary auditorium. Before Dylan becomes a temporary buzzword next week, it’s a 15-track, career-crossing compendium worth exploring.

Not every bit of Ramble at the Ryman is noteworthy: Helm and Sheryl Crow never quite find their mutual mark on the mandolin trot of “Evangeline,” and this take on “Time Out for the Blues” suggests that you’ve settled among the smoky, dim confines of just about any ol’ Americana roadhouse with players worth their whiskey. But the highlights are essential testaments to Helm’s gravelly tenderness as a vocalist, whether on his natural, narrative delivery of “A Train Robbery” or his mix of mourning and hope on this spare, show-stopping version of “Anna Lee.” Those two alone make the set a must-hear. And the closing triptych of favorites from The Band–“The Shape I’m In,” “Chest Fever” and, requisitely, “The Weight”–reassert just how good and fluid a drummer Helm has been for four decades. Here, his pockets are big, his grooves patient, as if his kit is simply an extension of all the soul and country music he’s ever heard.

Ramble at the Ryman‘s motley supporting cast–mainstream fence-sitter Sheryl Crow, accomplished actor and questionable bandleader Billy Bob Thornton, bona fide roots stars John Hiatt, Buddy Miller and Sam Bush–might raise some brows and suspicions. Before an opening, particularly raucous take on “Ophelia,” though, Thornton calls Helm “an inspiration for everybody in this audience, myself included, one of our heroes.” When you’re reading the Dylan hagiographies next week, don’t forget the supporting casts and characters that have helped Dylan make his career. And remember that there’s not one better or more essential Levon Helm.

Ramble at the Ryman is out now on Vanguard.

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Final Countdown

The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at IFC.com

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Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

Uncle-Buck

Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…