(Above: Amy Helm, Photo: Rick Farrell) The first day of March saw Amy Helm coming into the Narrows Center like a lion, warming the room on a late winter evening while leading her band through a carefully curated set of soulful music.
Helm put on a clinic for the near sell-out crowd, steering her band through a set of rare and well-known covers including several from on her 2018 album This Too Shall Light. That release, like her live show, combines elements of roots, gospel, folk and country to create a nice gumbo.
Her set opened with the roots filled “Cotton and the Cane,” and moved to the title song from her first release, “Didn’t it Rain,” which featured a tasty organ solo.
Her song selection was varied, and included the T Bone Burnett penned “River of Love,” and a sweet version of the Rob Stewart classic “Mandolin Wind.” Helm and the band also covered a soulful “Odetta,” a tune written by album producer Joe Henry, and a pair of songs by New Orleans legend Allen Toussaint.
Other highlights included the album title, “This Too Shall Light,” written by M.C. Taylor, (Hiss Golden Messenger) as well as the folksy “Gentling Me,” from Grammy nominee Mary Gautier.
Influence of Levon
Helm is of course the daughter of legendary drummer of The Band, Levon Helm, and while this show was totally her own, her father’s spirit was close.
She recognized the Narrows Center, a bastion of roots music, while offering up a couple of real treats. First, “a deep cut for deep fans,” which meant a rocked-up version of The Band’s “To Kingdom Come.” Then came a nicely arranged take on Dylan’s “When I Paint My Masterpiece,” with the band gathered around the microphone old school. She also performed an a Capella version of “Gloryland,” a spiritual “taught to me by my father,” she explained.
Helm helps run Levon Helm Studios, also known as “the Barn,” a unique performance space in Woodstock, New York where her father established a concert series that continues to this day. She’s clearly made a name for herself as well, performing on the festival circuit including a pair of appearances at Newport Folk in recent years.
The Furies, a RI born band now based in Brooklyn, NY, comprised of duo of Danielle Lee Moretti and Gabby Ess, did a more than admirable job filling in as opener at the last minute. Their set of alternative pop was well received by those in attendance.
Check out our photos from the show from WhatsUp Photographer Rick Farrell.