"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 alt-country 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 dozen-song set is rooted in first-person 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, co-wrote the majority of the songs with Helm, and is featured as one-third 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 count-off can be heard kicking off Amy's rousing take on Martha Scanlan's "Spend Our Last Dime."
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."
"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."