Monday, August 3, 2015

Amy Helm & the Handsome Strangers at the Drom

Amy Helm
Amy Helm was born and raised in a musical conclave in Woodstock, New York. Her father, the late Levon Helm, was the drummer in the Band, her mother was singer-songwriter Libby Titus and her stepfather was Donald Fagen of Steely Dan. As a teenager, she played her first show in a Manhattan bar, then sang and played in several other bands until joining her father's band, the Midnight Ramblers, for 10 years. Her father passed away in 2012, and she is now leading Amy Helm & the Handsome Strangers with guitarist Dan Littleton, bassist Byron Isaacs and drummer David Berger. After three albums with the alt-country collective Ollabelle, her first solo album, Didn't It Rain, was released on July 24, 2015.

Headlining at the Drom two nights after opening for Dr. John in Central Park, Helm showed that the roots of her music remain close to those of her father. As a formidable singer-songwriter, her lyrics explored the timeless themes of life, love and loss. The format of the catalogue pivoted largely on traditional folk and country, but stretched generously into blues and gospel. Helm played mandolin on a few songs, and sang soulfully and expressively whether the song simmered on bluegrass or rhythm and blues. Littleton played an acoustic guitar but curiously made it sound like an electric guitar; he and Berger brought the rock jam sound to many of the up-tempo songs. In all, Helm's heartfelt singing, choice of material and arrangements drew by the buckets from the many streams of Americana. Given proper exposure, Helm may revitalize the Woodstock sound.

Helm will perform with Ollabelle at City Winery on September 3. In the meantime, visit Amy Helm at www.amyhelm.com.