Amy Helm

Creative Concerts Presents

Amy Helm

Parsonsfield, The Nate Gross Band

Sun, June 17, 2018

Doors: 4:00 pm / Show: 5:00 pm

Good Nature Brewing

Hamilton, NY

$20.00 - $25.00

This event is all ages

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."
Parsonsfield
Parsonsfield
PARSONSFIELD – BLOOMING THROUGH THE BLACK

May 6, 2015: Day One in the abandoned axe factory hadn't gone as planned, so today is the first time the five members of Parsonsfield will actually get to make music here. They'd been looking forward to converting this cavernous industrial space on the banks of the Farmington River in Collinsville, CT, ever since singer/banjo player Chris Freeman, who grew up nearby, brought it to their attention. The idea of recording in such a reverberant, reactive space held great appeal after the past six months spent in Canada exclusively performing their critically acclaimed original songs for 'The Heart Of Robin Hood,' a musical that required them to wear in-ear monitors for eight shows a week in theaters designed to be sonically dead.



They've got their amps and PA plugged in now, and there's a faint layer of sawdust on top of all the gear. It's nothing compared to yesterday, when they opened the doors for the first time and discovered sawdust an inch thick coating every imaginable surface. It was so bad they had to purchase respirators and devote the entire day to sweeping and vacuuming, trying to outwit the neighbor's overzealous guard dog every time they came and went from the building. The whole process left so much dust still floating in the air that every time they take a break, another layer settles back down to earth, but at least they can comfortably breathe now.



Above them, a cyclist crosses the rickety bridge over the river, making a distinctive clatter as the wheels hit a particularly loose plank. It's time to begin 'Blooming Through The Black.'

* * *

Though they call western Massachusetts home, Parsonsfield draws their name from the rural Maine town that's home to the Great North Sound Society, the farmhouse-turned-recording-studio of Josh Ritter keyboardist/producer Sam Kassirer. It was there that they cut their outstanding debut, 'Poor Old Shine,' which established them as a roots force to be reckoned with. The New York Times hailed the band as "boisterously youthful yet deftly sentimental," while Folk Alley dubbed their songs "the most jubilant and danceable indie roots music this side of the Carolinas." Their rowdy live performances only upped the ante, with The Bluegrass Situation falling for their "fun and frenzy" and No Depression raving that they'll "give you rich five-part harmonies one minute, sound like bluegrass on steroids the next, and then rock you over the head with unbearably cool and raucous Celtic rhythms."



It was only natural, then, that they called on Kassirer once again for their follow-up, 'Blooming Through The Black,' enlisting his engineering and production ingenuity to help convert the axe factory into a temporary recording studio. In addition to placing microphones on each instrument, Kassirer set up additional mics throughout the factory just to capture the feel of the enormous space, which itself became another instrument in the band's already-impressive repertoire.



Parsonsfield spent nearly six months writing and rehearsing in the factory, discovering that song ideas that had begun life in Canada radically transformed in their new home. The space demanded understatement and subtlety to balance out the band's exuberance and energy, and by the time they were ready to hit record, they were sitting on a collection chock full of the most infectious, emotionally mature songs of their career.



'Blooming Through The Black' opens with 'Stronger,' a slow-burner that, much like Parsonsfield's career, begins as an acoustic folk number and builds to an electrified tumult. It's a showcase for their instrumental prowess, lyrical chops, and unbridled passion, and it's just the start. The title track—inspired by the sight of the first flowers growing back in the forest fire-charred landscape of Hell Canyon, South Dakota—finds Freeman blending punk energy with earnest sincerity in his delivery, while "Across Your Mind" rides a feel-good groove driven by bassist Harrison Goodale and drummer Erik Hischman, and "Water Through A Mill" ebbs and flows like a solemn hymn on top of Max Shakun's meditative pump organ.



As the band explored the quirks and eccentricities of the factory, unexpected sounds and moments sometimes became permanent fixtures of the songs, but a particularly happy accident occurred outside the studio entirely, when Shakun called mandolin player Antonio Alcorn for help setting up his new record player. Upon dropping the needle somewhere in the middle of a copy of 'Poor Old Shine,' they discovered it was spinning backwards, but the melody coming out of the speakers was perhaps even more of an infectious earworm than it was when played forward. They brought the new riff to the rest of the band, where it morphed into "The Ties That Bind Us," a stand-out foot-stomper and a highlight of their live show.



Catch Parsonsfield onstage any night and the band's joy is palpable. They trade instruments, share microphones, and shoot each other big grins. They sing in tight multi-part harmonies, their voices blending like they've been doing this together all their lives. That's because Parsonsfield is a family band, not by birth but by choice. And with an album this thrilling, it's only a matter of time before you share their same enthusiasm.



Listen closely at the top of "Don't Get Excited" and you'll hear the clatter of a cyclist crossing the rickety bridge over the river. That's the sound of Parsonsfield inviting you into the axe factory. It's time to begin 'Blooming Through The Black.' Good luck not getting excited.
Venue Information:
Good Nature Brewing
1727 NY-12B
Hamilton, NY, 13346