Brian Blauser/Mountain Stage
Amy Helm was born into roots music royalty in Woodstock, N.Y. as the daughter of the late Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Levon Helm of The Band and well-known singer-songwriter and actress Libby Titus. The mountain-hewn, soul-filled artist has been carrying on the family tradition, rambling and rocking around in that new, old-time way ever since.
As a multi-instrumentalist in the group Ollabelle, which formed out of post 9/11 Sunday gospel sessions in NYC, Helm played Mountain Stage three times. In July 2021 she made her second appearance as a solo artist, bringing with her an ace band to share gifts from her third solo album, What the Flood Leaves Behind.
Helm, who still often hosts the always sold-out, intimate Midnight Ramble shows at the Helm’s barn where she recorded her latest record, said it was lovely to be back among other artists and an audience on Mountain Stage. “I just want to say how incredible it is to be back at Mountain Stage and to be surrounded and inspired by so many incredible artists,” Helm said, giving a nod to the other guests as she closed the show.
- “Carry It Alone”
- “Cotton and the Cane”
- “Sweet Mama”
- “Verse 23”
Helm, who was in a couple bands with her late father, The Barn Burners and the Midnight Ramble Band, also co-produced her dad’s 2008 Grammy winning album Dirt Farmer. She came to Mountain Stage loaded with an all-star band that included legendary pianist Cliff Carter (who’s played with everyone from James Taylor to Paul Simon), and Adam Levy, who played guitar on Norah Jones’ first three albums.
Noted by host Kathy Mattea for the “sheer honesty and depth of her vocals,” Helm hit hardest during the set singing songs closest to the bone like “Cotton and the Cane,” written with the venerable Mary Gauthier, about growing up in the wilds of a music industry house and town. “This song is about being young and surrounded by so many beautiful souls who were totally taken in the grips of addiction,” Helm told the audience. “Being a middle-aged mom I’m able to sing about that with a lot of hope and recovery.”
Helm closed with another redemption song, “Verse 23,” which M.C. Taylor of Hiss Golden Messenger wrote for Helm. “It’s a nice song to hear at this time of us coming out of a year with such isolation and such trouble,” Helm said. “The chorus speaks of not just survival, and coming through something difficult, but relying on your community and people, and giving your love and accepting the love back.”