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Live Report: My Morning Jacket Play the Ramble

Jim James leads the band through a 10-song set of live show staples

October 21, 2010 5:47 PM ET

A small crowd gathered at the home of Levon Helm on Saturday night for the Midnight Ramble, an event that should be on any music fan's bucket list. Typically an opening band is invited to share in the festivities with Levon and his band — past guests have included Allen Toussaint and Phil Lesh. This time around, My Morning Jacket made the journey up to the barn, which is nestled away in Woodstock, N.Y. The band was well rehearsed for their career-spanning run of shows at New York City's Terminal 5, where they have been playing each one of their albums consecutively over five nights. Jim James led the band through a 10-song set of live show staples, as well as songs like "From Nashville to Kentucky," which they dusted off in preparation for the NYC gigs.

See photos from the Midnight Ramble

"Gideon," from the band's 2005 breakthrough album, Z, was as peaceful as a drive through the country until it spiraled out of control, with Patrick Hallahan's pounding of the drums opening into an assault from the guitar. On "Wonderful (The Way I Feel)," a new song — it's expected to be on their next album — James perfectly captured the feeling in the room, singing with the utmost sincerity, "I'm going where there ain't no need/To escape from what is/All the spirits at ease." Carl Broemel's pedal steel proved equally soulful. My Morning Jacket wrapped up their set with "One Big Holiday," which would have been a fine ending to the night — if the Levon Helm Band wasn't about to come on stage with special guest Donald Fagen. (They played until after midnight — read more on that here.)

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Song Stories

“Try a Little Tenderness”

Otis Redding | 1966

This pop standard had been previously recorded by dozens of artists, including by Bing Crosby 33 years before Otis Redding, who usually wrote his own songs, cut it. It was actually Sam Cooke’s 1964 take, which Redding’s manager played for Otis, that inspired the initially reluctant singer to take on the song. Isaac Hayes, then working as Stax Records’ in-house producer, handled the arrangement, and Booker T. and the MG’s were the backing band. Redding’s soulful version begins quite slowly and tenderly itself before mounting into a rousing, almost religious “You’ve gotta hold her, squeeze her …” climax. “I did that damn song you told me to do,” Redding told his manager. “It’s a brand new song now.”

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