You've probably heard me say this before, but as soon as I heard XXX was playing locally at a hall I love, we snapped up tickets. This time it was the incredible Amy Helm at the Bull Run and we got tickets at the front table, where we've seen acts like Hot Tuna, Dan Hicks, Patty Larkin, et al. We've had some great times at the Bull Run and this was another one.
The Sawtelle Room was only half full and this is ridiculous. I feel that Amy Helm is the kind of remarkable talent that, several years from now if she sticks to it and releases a few records, people will be running to go see. She's been in the shadow of her Dad, lost a bit in the varied talent of her earlier band Ollabelle (whom I *hope* gets back together), and trying to mix family with career, but when you get a chance to see a musician like this you should not pass it up.
I can't say I feel Amy is the greatest singer, the greatest songwriter, the most amazing multi-instrumentalist, or the greatest bandleader. But she has all those tools, mixes them well, and is one of the most soulful, affecting, sincere performers I know. Don't take my word for it, look up her videos and recordings (her first solo album will be out in "the fall"), and ask Scott who saw a few of her videos, came out last night, and was blown away.
Thea Hopkins and her accompanist Andy Hollinger opened and played a fine set. Thea presses her guitar close to her chest like a security blanket and is a bit reminiscent of Diana Jones in using her warbly voice to sneak some great verbal images almost by you.
Then Amy came out with her band of Daniel Littleton on a funky old acoustic, Justin Guip on drum kit and box, and the great Byron Isaacs (whom I didn't recognize at first because of the Coke-bottle glasses he was sporting) on bass-shaped-like-a-ukelele and guitar. Amy stuck to mandola and vocals. The legendary Ronnie Earl also sat in on a few tunes. When Justin switched to the box he also brought out an instrument that you could set to a key and squeeze for it to blows air over its reeds, kind of like a cross between ... well, a lot of things. He talked about it some and mentioned its name (which I forget), but in my mind I called it Glenn Patscha. :)
They stuck mostly to recent Amy-penned tunes in the beginning of their set. We were disappointed that her album isn't released yet but I'm sure we heard most of it. Two of her remarkable recent tunes are Roll the Stone and Sky's Falling and she did those second and third in the set. Jeez, it was another case of we could have gone home then and been more than satisfied. Sky's Falling in particular is awesome ... better and better each time she plays it. And then the jaw-dropping soulfulness and intensity just kept coming, with songs like The Battle Is Over, Calvary, Guthrie's I Ain't Got No Home, Dylan's Every Grain Of Sand (the most beautiful, moving version I've ever heard), and the closing rendition of The Band's It Makes No Difference.
Take a look at Sarah's pictures and some videos she took. Also, here's another review of a recent show.