I've spend the past few days ogling over The Band. Admittedly, aside from some of their prominent classics like "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down," "The Weight," and "Up On Cripple Creek," I was never fully versed in the stylings of the monumental Americana rock group. That changed last week when, for the first time, I watched The Last Waltz, Martin Scorcese's legendary concert-documentary covering The Band's 1976 farewell concert in San Francisco, which featured an endless parade of legendary guest performers, including Bob Dylan, Mavis Staples, Van Morrison, Muddy Waters, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Dr. John, Eric Clapton, and a lot more, if you can believe that.

Stunned by the colossal musical talent and intelligence exuding from these five pleasant everymen who dominated the stage so many years ago, I immediately began digging through their discography and researching their historic career. I'll leave the history lesson to Wikipedia, but I will say that The Band, with their original lineup, could very well be the smartest musical minds the United States has ever seen. Everything is perfect: flawless, breathtaking harmonies between vocalists Levon Helm, Rick Danko, and Richard Manuel (the three switched off with lead singer duties), dynamic lyrical storytelling, and all-around superb musicianship. Helm's drums, Danko's bass, Manuel's piano, Robbie Robertson's guitar, and Garth Hudson's keyboards/organs come together to form the epitome of great songwriting, reaching the very heart of great American music like no others can.

Running the categorical gamut with heartfelt ballads ("It Makes No Difference"), epic civil ware narratives ("The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down"), psychedelic grooves ("Chest Fever"), and religious folk compositions ("I Shall Be Released"), The Band's repertoire remains a strong inspiration for any musician today. After The Last Waltz, The Band existed with several incarnations, but the original lineup from 1964-76 is the one that will live on as one of the greatest bands of all time.

This playlist showcases some of the influence, spirit, and style of The Band. Blues, folk, roots-rock, Americana...... whatever it is, The Band were the masters.