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Technique

When Music from Big Pink was released, it was notable for its seeming indifference to the musical trends of its time. A distinctive blend of folk music, country, early rock and roll, and gospel, there was not a hint of the British invasion. Nor, for all their drug use, was there nothing psychedelic about the music The Band turned out at the height of the psychedelic craze. The Band was equally resistant to certain developments during the years that followed. As many bands drifted toward Phil Spector's wall of sound, The Band's music retained its more spare, clean lines.

Clean, however, may not be the right word. Neither the instruments nor the vocals ever blended in perfect unison. In fact, what is most distinctive about The Band's music is its readily differentiated elements—the distinct instruments and voices that converge but rarely blend.

For that reason, The Band's music can be intensely personal—a missed note is easily heard, the imperfect harmonies are not muffled within some all-forgiving and absorbing mass. For that reason, the Band's music can also seem dated—more grounded in the nineteenth century than in the twentieth. It slides easily behind images of wagon-rutted country roads; we can imagine Robert E. Lee's troops singing "The Weight" as they gathered outside Gettysburg. Nor is it accidental that Confederate campfires come easily to mind. After all, The Band originated in the rockabilly sounds of Arkansas. The only surprising part is how the Canadians that came to numerically dominate The Hawks/Band after 1963 managed to capture the sound so well.

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