Membran [Release date 02.10.15]
Amy Helm reminds me of Joss Stone. An unquestionable vocal talent. But lacking in material to exploit it commercially.
First a member of the post 9/11 alt-country collective Ollabelle, and subsequently working extensively with her late father Levon Helm – the drummer and regular lead vocalist of The Band – Didn’t It Rain Is Amy Helm’s debut solo album.
As we’ve said more than once, legendary genes guarantee nothing when it comes to creativity. Most offspring of rock royalty are indulged on the strength of their bloodline and on Didn’t It Rain, there’s an impressive roster of supporting players and singers – former Ollabelle bandmate Byron Isaacs produces, co-writes, and plays bass alongside Helm’s current Handsome Strangers band members Daniel Littleton (guitars) and drummer David Berger.
But it’s the extended cast list where the ‘heavyweights’ are to be found – Little Feat keyboard player Bill Payne, guitarists Larry Campbell, Chris Masterson, and Jim Weider; keyboard players Marco Benevento, John Medeski, and Brain Mitchell, and guest backing vocalists Carolyn Leonheart, Elizabeth Mitchell, Allison Moorer, Catherine Russell and Teresa Williams. It was also the final recording sessions of Leon Helm who features on three tracks.
Finished two years ago, but revisited in the light of road testing Didn’t It Rain is a pleasant blues infused Americana offering, with impassioned vocals and immaculate playing. But rarely does it set pulse racing. Instead, it burbles along pleasantly, for the most part without delivering many sucker punches.
There is one exception though – the sumptuous ‘Roll Away’ with its subtle swelling keyboards, delicate guitar work and a sublime vocal performance. It’s a number to stand alongside classics like Brenda Russell’s ‘Get Here’.
There can be no argument that the set is quite beautifully put together and in many ways a perfect accompaniment to the seductive aromas of your favourite coffee shop. ***
Review by Pete Whalley
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