Amy Helm

Bonfire Presents, a Philly Residency with:

Amy Helm

Buffalo Stack

Wed, March 29, 2017

7:00 pm

$15.00

This event is 21 and over

Amy Helm
Amy Helm
"I'm just trying to tell some stories as honestly as I can," Amy Helm says of ​Didn't It Rain, ​her first solo album and her eOne Music debut.

Although the personally charged, organically soulful ​Didn't It Rain ​is her first release under her own name, Amy Helm has been making music for most of her life. She's already won widespread praise as a singer, songwriter and live performer, first as a member of the celebrated alt­country collective Ollabelle and subsequently for her extensive work with her father, musical icon Levon Helm, who passed away in 2012.

Blessed with a commanding, deeply expressive voice and an uncanny songwriting skill that instinctively draws upon a deep well of American musical traditions, Amy Helm delivers a timelessly powerful statement with Didn't It Rain.

The spellbinding dozen­song set is rooted in first­person experience, exploring universal themes of life, love and loss on such musically and emotionally resonant originals as the smoldering soul ballad "Rescue Me," the hushed, lilting "Deep Water," the meditative "Roll Away" and the stark, haunting "Wild Girl." Complementing Helm's originals are her personalized takes on the Sam Cooke classic "Good News" and the traditional title track, which she delivers with the heartfelt gospel urgency that's always been an element of her vocal persona.

Accompanying Helm on ​Didn't It Rain​ is an impressive roster of players and singers that demonstrates the esteem in which the artist is held by her peers. Helm's former Ollabelle bandmate Byron Isaacs, who produced the album, co­wrote the majority of the songs with Helm, and is featured as one­third of Helm's current live trio the Handsome Strangers, playing bass alongside guitarist Daniel Littleton and drummer David Berger. Also contributing their talents are Little Feat keyboardist Bill Payne; guitarists Larry Campbell, Chris Masterson and Jim Weider; keyboardists Marco Benevento, John Medeski and Brian Mitchell; and guest backup vocalists Carolyn Leonhart, Elizabeth Mitchell, Allison Moorer, Catherine Russell and Teresa Williams.

Didn't It Rain ​also marked the final recording sessions of Levon Helm, who acted as the project's executive producer as well as adding his unmistakable drumming on three tracks; Levon's distinctive count­off can be heard kicking off Amy's rousing take on Martha Scanlan's "Spend Our Last Dime."

Helm had originally planned to release her solo debut a bit sooner, but chose to substantially rework the album that she initially recorded, recutting more than half of the songs with the road­tested Handsome Strangers.

"That was kind of a reckless move financially, and it's resulted in the album coming out two years later than I originally thought it would, but it was the right thing to do," she acknowledges. "When I started the record, I'd never done a gig under my own name, and I was still getting comfortable with the idea of being a solo artist. I thought I'd finished the record, but then I started going out on the road, and the stuff that we were doing live was so much stronger thanwhat I had recorded, and I started feeling more confidence and focus. So we went back in the studio, with no money and no budget, and found a way to do it and get it right."

Many of ​Didn't It Rain​'s songs are the product of an extended period during which the artist endured a series of personal trials and life changes, including the April 2012 passing of her father and chief musical mentor.

"The past few years have been profoundly transformative for me, so I wanted to tell some of those stories as honestly as I could," she asserts. "I thought about the people I had lost, and things that had fallen apart and things that were coming together, and that influenced the way I sang these songs."

Amy Helm began connecting with audiences early in life, playing her first gig in her early teens in a Manhattan bar and drifting informally through a series of combos before her father recruited her to join his live band. She also absorbed musical and personal inspiration from her mother, noted singer/songwriter Libby Titus; and her stepfather, Steely Dan co­mastermind Donald Fagen, who offered Amy additional opportunities to find herself as a performer.

"I always did gigs through high school and college," she explains, "but my fears and insecurities kept me from committing to it. That's when my dad became a huge influence; he scooped me up when I was in my mid ­20s and put me in this blues band. I was very, very green, but I got my road­dog status with him. It was like walking through fire every time I got on stage, but it forced me to decide if I wanted to do this. And I decided that I absolutely wanted to do it."

Amy's vocal and songwriting talents soon found a home in the New York­ based Ollabelle, whose three acclaimed albums and countless live gigs saw her evolve into a confident, charismatic performer. She also resumed her musical collaboration with her father, singing and playing in his band, playing on and co­producing his Grammy­ winning 2007 comeback album Dirt Farmer​, and helping to organize the now­legendary Midnight Ramble concerts at Levon's home studio in Woodstock, NY.

"He was the best teacher, in so many ways," Amy says of her father. "He wasn't interested in overthinking anything; all he cared about was playing music. He saw himself as a working musician, and it was serious business and it had to be right. Playing side by side with him in the Ramble band for ten years, and building those shows with him, really changed the way I approached things, and his humility influenced and shaped me as a musician, as it did everyone who played with him."

With ​Didn't It Rain​ reintroducing her to the world as a solo artist, Helm says that her immediate plan is "to just get out and play as many gigs as possible. I think that the job of a musician is to try and shake people out of their own heads for an hour or two, and bring some joy into the world. So I want to get out there and do the job the best I can."
Buffalo Stack
Being a musician in NYC is tough. You have to take a lot of gigs that you wouldn't if you had the choice, the price of living is high and competition is fierce. In order to make all of your money in music in NYC, you have to be good – damn good. Andy Stack didn't just survive – he thrived. For 13 years he played every gig in Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx that you can imagine, strapping his amp to a luggage cart and his guitars to his back. He took Subways, Taxis, and walked blocks and blocks to rehearsals, gigs and recording studios, most often working to promote someone else's project.

Some musicians are happy to be sidemen/women. There's a simplicity to it, and if that's your calling, it's great. Other people have an inner voice that demands to be heard. You can only suppress a voice like that for so long before you have no choice but to heed its' call.

Andy had grown disillusioned with the scene and was looking for a way out. A trip to New Orleans to visit his friend Maryanne seemed to point to a move to the Big Easy. He came back determined to pack up and leave. The next night he went out to see a friend play a gig at the 55 bar. There were about 15 people there – and this cute girl in the corner. They started talking – she was a recent transplant to The City, having moved from Nashville, TN, and a Canadian to boot. They exchanged numbers, and as she walked away he thought "Maybe I won't move to New Orleans".

Within two months they had a duo band (The Stacks), in 7 months they were married, and a month after that they left New York for Hudson, NY, where their rent money got them a whole house (!) with a big yard and a whole new life. All that space allowed half-finished songs to see the light and new songs to pop up like wildflowers.

One night at Levon Helm's Barn they heard Lee Falco (drums), Brandon Morrison (bass) and Connor Kennedy tearing it up. The 5 became fast friends and Andy invited Lee and Brandon to come record at his house. Their virtuosic playing combined with Andy's songs, voice and guitar beautifully. Over 6 months they crafted a lush, soulful Roots/Rock album, with his wife Tania adding string sections and vocals, Jeremy Baum on keys, Rich Hinman on Pedal Steel and a horn section by Andy's former bandmates Fred Reiter and Kevin Batchelor from his days with the New York Ska Jazz Ensemble.

Slated for release in August 2014, Buffalo Stack's self-titled album is poised to capture the hearts of anyone who loves old-school Rock & Roll, Blues & Americana music.
Venue Information:
MilkBoy
1100 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA, 19107