Even if she hadn’t done anything but hang around The Barn, the recording studio/intimate performance space run by her dad, Levon Helm, Amy Helm would have picked up a first-class education on what makes music real. Fortunately, she’s also got quite a set of pipes on her, and a lot of talented friends willing to help out on this first outing under her own name. (She has previously recorded as a member of Ollabelle.) Mostly weighted toward original material, Helm’s music bears the same Americana authenticity preferred by Levon and the acts that have passed through his place (where Amy recorded the set). With her own band, The Handsome Strangers, and cameos from such heavies as Larry Campbell, John Medeski and Allison Moorer, Helm brings soul and naturalness to both ballads (“Gentling Me”) and stone rockers (“Heat Lightning”). Of the covers, the midtempo country-esque reading of Martha Scanlan’s “Spend Our Last Dime” is somewhat bittersweet, as Levon’s voice can be heard counting off the tune’s start. It’ll make you miss him even more, but you can be happy that Amy Helm is doing what she does.
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