LIVE: Amy Helm & the Handsome Strangers @ the Cohoes Music Hall, 4/22/16

Review by Greg Haymes

Amy Helm sang up a storm at the Cohoes Music Hall recently, opening with the funky, syncopated New Orleans parade beat of “Didn’t It Rain,” and then sliding into a medley of “Sky’s Falling” and the classic Ann Peebles’ soul nugget “I Can’t Stand the Rain.” But there was no actual precipitation, and she didn’t conjure up a downpour of anything but good music.

The 45-year-old daughter of The Band’s Levon Helm isn’t simply riding on the coattails of her late, great father, who passed away four years ago this week, but she’s definitely carrying on his eclectic, rootsy musical legacy.

After several years in the gospel folk-rock band Ollabelle, Amy Helm released her debut solo album, Didn’t It Rain, last year, and those songs provided the framework for her Cohoes concert from the tender acoustic ballad “Gentling Me” to the chugging, uptempo romp of “Good News,” which wrapped up her show. For one of the brightest moments of the 95-minute show, she brought out Shelley King and the crimson-haired Carolyn Wonderland (two of Helm’s bandmates in the Woodstock Lonestars) for some glorious vocal harmonies on the acoustic “Deep Water.”

But she stretched out far beyond the album. A rollicking rendition of Little Richard’s “Slippin’ and Slidin'” coaxed the first folks out onto the dance floor, although David Berger’s mid-song drum solo cut the dancing short. A chugging rockabilly rip through “You’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone” also kept the tempo churning.

A foot-stompin’ blues rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Meet Me in the Morning” afforded bassist Jacob Silver a spotlight solo and guitarist Andy Stack unleashed some sizzling slide guitar work. The whole band got a chance to stretch out and jam their way through the Crescent City rhythms of Allen Toussaint’s “Yes We Can Can,” and Silver and Stack huddled around Helm’s microphone for a captivating a cappella rendition of “Gloryland,” a traditional gospel favorite that her father taught her.

Best of all, however, was their haunting treatment of Bruce Springsteen’s “Atlantic City” (also recorded by Levon Helm in the later incarnation of the Band), with King and Wonderland once again adding their voices to the gospelesque fire.

Fellow Woodstockers Connor Kennedy & Minstrel opened the show with a solid 40-minute set that showcased their ’60s and ’70s-vintage influences – including the Band, the Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan, country-rock, folk-rock – culminating with Kennedy’s guitar workout during their closing blues ballad, “Down by the Water.” They also returned to join Helm and company for the encores of “Long Black Veil” and Dave Mason’s “Only You Know and I Know.”

This review is reprinted with the permission of The Times Union.

Didn’t It Rain
Sky’s Falling > I Can’t Stand the Rain (Ann Peebles)
Rescue Me
Gentling Me
You’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone (Raymond Lewis)
Atlantic City (Bruce Springsteen)
Deep Water
Slippin’ and Slidin’ (Little Richard)
Sing to Me
Yes We Can Can (Allen Toussaint)
Meet Me in the Morning (Bob Dylan)
Good News
Long Black Veil
Only You know and I Know

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