As the season turns towards autumn and the swifts gather to fly south, a natural feeling of melancholia creeps over my soul. A looking back to times moved on. The presence of nostalgia, remembered places, friends and the wisp of something passing through the air. The music of The Band has always fitted this mood perfectly. A swooping reverie of how things used to be, and sometimes still are. A returning to the roots, simplicity and the basic virtues of life lived close to the unfolding of nature’s slow turning. “Music From Big Pink” heralded a return to folk-roots music. Arguably the first “Americana” album, it inspired and influenced a whole generation of contemporary musicians including Jimi Hendrix, the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin and collaborator Bob Dylan. Listening to it at the time the music seemed to come from another place entirely. This, in some ways isn’t surprising. After all the Band weren’t American group at all. Canadians apart from the dearly departed Levon Holm they were heavily steeped in the roots music traditions of the southern states. I only saw them once, courtesy of the generosity of my pals from Ramsbottom whom, when I was at a low ebb, ever so kindly bought me a ticket to go down to Wembley Stadium to see them in concert with Joni Mitchell and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. That would be in 1974 – a concert memorable for being the first to be held in the national stadium, a crowd of round about 80,000, and a day of glorious sunshine to put us avid punters in the happiest of mind states. The Band played a disappointingly short set with many of their most memorable songs like “Rocking Chair” and “Whisperin’ Pines” absent from the set list. We later found out why. Richard Manuel’s voice was shot. Richard later commmited suicide in 1986 to leave us grieving the sad loss of a truly amazing talent. My charcoal and pastel drawing below (“Where’s Richard Manuel”) is based on a photograph from the Band’s eponymously titled second album. The face of organist and arranger extraordinaire, Garth Hudson is the one that’s left untouched by the passing years.