Sunday, October 7, 2018
It's a long road to the center / This too shall light
It was only looking back at her new album that Amy Helm realized it exhibits a theme of perseverance and faith throughout. The soulful roots musician didn't set out with that in mind for her second solo release, but after sitting with "This Too Shall Light" -- ostensibly a play on the encouragement "This too shall pass" -- as a whole, she saw the motifs come to the surface for her.
WHEN — 8 p.m. Oct. 12
WHERE — George’s Majestic Lounge in Fayetteville
COST — $20-$25
INFO — 527-6618, georgesmajesticlounge.com, amyhelm.com
"It's something I really didn't hear until someone else heard it, [but] its beginning and ending in the same place is maybe a feeling of completion and accepting where you're standing in the moment. I guess that's what it means to me," she says from her home in New York on the day of the record's release. What Helm and her Grammy-winning producer Joe Henry were more focused on for the recording was how the songs felt. "Is there enough motion in it that it can hold this spontaneous [quality]? We didn't practice anything or rehearse or arrange anything. We really did it in the moment."
The aim was an album that is characterized by the abandon and joy of a live performance, Helm shares. She finished recording in only four days -- laying down her vocals and not giving them much attention after that. The lack of post-edits like overdubbing, the "exotic" recording locale of Los Angeles -- instead of her family studio in Woodstock, N.Y. -- and the absence of time to settle into the songs, to begin to over-think them, enabled the team to create a liberating piece of work that captured a moment in time.
"Joe Henry, I think one thing he's incredible at that resonates on a lot of his productions is that he's particularly good at finding songs for singers, and finding that kind of magic between a voice and a melody and matching them together," Helm says.
The songs chosen for "This Too Shall Light" are a collection of both new compositions and classics from across decades that reflect that magic when integrated with Helm's gorgeous harmonies. Of course honoring her father -- Arkansas legend and The Band drummer Levon Helm -- with cuts of his tunes "The Stones I Throw" and "Gloryland," Helm also found the vibe she was going for in tracks by Allen Toussaint, T-Bone Burnett, Rod Stewart and the Milk Carton Kids.
"I think that I've learned to care a little bit less about what other people think, which is a wonderful, wonderful gift that comes with getting older," Helm considers. "You care deeply about people, but you accept yourself a little bit quicker, and I'm a little less quick to judge myself musically. And humility is the most relieving of feelings, I think, when it comes to music, because there's just so much to learn.
"I just love listening to other singers and other players and every genre, everything," she goes on. "I try to stay really open to it and that just seems to be growing more and more in me, like a thirst for it, really. And I think it helps me with my own music, too, because it's inspiring to go watch somebody else's set and then get up on stage and attune yourself to what you're trying to put forward and emulate your friends and your peers and your heroes."
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