This Too Shall Light Amy Helm
Label: Yep Roc Records
Subgenre: Folk Rock
Artist: Amy Helm
Album including Album cover
- 1This Too Shall Light04:20
- 4Freedom for the Stallion03:22
- 5Mandolin Wind05:52
- 6Long Daddy Green02:39
- 7The Stones I Throw02:11
- 8Heaven's Holding Me04:26
- 9River of Love03:11
Info for This Too Shall Light
This Too Shall Light, due September 21, 2018 on Yep Roc Records, comprises 10 songs produced by Grammy-winning producer and songwriter Joe Henry. Helm left her home and comfort zone of Woodstock, NY, choosing to record in Los Angeles within the confines of just a four-day window. The musicians were directed not to overthink the songs, and Helm herself barely performed any of the selections while leading up to the recording. As a result, the sessions forced fast musical trust among the collaborators and yielded the vibrant instrumental improvisations heard throughout This Too Shall Light.
"The opening title track penned by Hiss Golden Messenger's M.C. Taylor and Josh Kaufman, crosses through sparse, slippery, bluesy rock in the intro before diving headlong into soulful gospel. Its lyrics reference Donny Hathaway's "Voices Inside (Everything Is Everything)," and Helm travels them to marry hope and caution. The cover of Henry's "Odetta" is completely revisioned. In the grain of her voice, L.A. singer/songwriter balladry is wed to the Band's gritty country gospel. Tyler Chester's cascading piano and Jay Bellerose's martial snare point her toward an uncertain horizon -- which she embraces. The Milk Carton Kids' "Michigan" is a mournful song of grief and loss painted by Helm's earthy voice expressing deep loneliness as the green backdrop of the Great Lakes state passes in the rear view. The gritty, funky Southern-style soul on Allen Toussaint's "Freedom for the Stallion" marries Gladys Knight's stirring sea of emotion to Ann Peebles' weary-to-the-bone heartbreak. A stellar reading of Rod Stewart's "Mandolin Wind" is delivered with acoustic and electric slide guitar and a honky-tonk piano -- Helm's own mandolin is noticeably absent -- but the romantic ache in her heartworn delivery more than compensates. Her reading of Blossom Dearie's "Long Daddy Green" (a song Helm has loved since childhood) utilizes a blues-haunted B3 in an unorthodox approach to jazz; it's a saloon song of uncommon emotional depth. "The Stones I Throw" was the last single Levon Helm sang with the Hawks before emerging with the Band. Of all the tracks on This Too Shall Light, this and the traditional closer "Gloryland" resonate with Motel Shot's feel: They balance sacred and corporeal celebration with want, loss, and earthly gratitude. As fine as Didn't It Rain was, This Too Shall Light better illustrates Helm's massive talent." (Thom Jurek, AMG)
Amy Helm, vocals, mandolin
Doyle Bramhall II, guitar
Tyler Chester, keyboards
Jennifer Condos, bass
Jay Bellerose, drums
Singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Amy Helm’s third album, What the Flood Leaves Behind, is her most autobiographical yet, both in content and creation. Released in June of 2021 via Renew Records/BMG, these 10 songs represent a gathering of ideas and experiences, friends and collaborators. Yet, the album also marks a landing — a pause for the traveling musician and mother of two young boys who was seeking clarity in her calling and career.
After making multiple albums and performing in far-flung places, Helm returned home to Woodstock’s Levon Helm Studios just before the pandemic to record What the Flood Leaves Behind and reclaim a sense of self.
“Going back to the place where I learned so much about how to express music, how to hold myself in music, how to listen to music,” she begins, “it was humbling in a funny way. I could see clearly where I came from and where I am now in my life. I was singing from a different place now and for a different reason.”
An impressive group of friends and collaborators joins Helm on What the Flood Leaves Behind. With musical polyglot Josh Kaufman (whose credits range from Taylor Swift’s Folklore to the Grammy-nominated Bonny Light Horseman) producing and contributing on piano, guitar, and mandolin, the record brings Helm’s powerful, emotive vocals to the forefront of the album.
“We tried to make it about her voice and about the musicians responding to her and not the other way around,” explains Kaufman. “I wanted her to feel like she had that freedom to be herself on the recordings and she just filled up the whole room. Her singing was coming from this deeply rooted place of family and music and wanting to convey a beauty.”
In fact, Helm considers Levon Helm Studios itself to be “the tuning fork” for the record — an ethereal, elemental component that helped her and musicians Phil Cook (keys, harmonica), Michael Libramento (bass, organ, percussion), Tony Mason (drums), Daniel Littleton (guitar), Stuart Bogie (saxophone), Jordan McLean (trumpet), and her son Lee Collins (congas) summon courage and comfort.
The songs themselves reflect Helm’s inner strength and personal growth. Some might even sound familiar: “Cotton and the Cane" is a pensive homage to those who raised her, whom she calls, “the village of brilliant and talented people who were also wrestling with the grips of addiction.” A fan favorite that previously took on many styles when performed live, the song is now buoyed by her soaring soprano atop a whirring Wurlitzer. “Are We Running Out of Love,” a freak-folk drone in the hands of Swedish guitarist and songwriter Daniel Norgren, becomes an acoustic, urgent plea. Additionally, the album features collaborations with a number of prominent and prolific songwriters in roots music like Elizabeth Ziman (Elizabeth and The Catapult), Mary Gauthier, Erin Rae, and more.
But it’s “Verse 23,” the song from which the album title is derived, that encapsulates What the Flood Leaves Behind. Written by M.C. Taylor (Hiss Golden Messenger) specifically for Helm, the song opens gently as she beckons, “Turn to Verse 23, read the words on the page.” It’s a Psalm of David that declares, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”
From there, the vivid, narrative verses swell, building up to a chorus with deep resonance for Helm. She repeats back the lyrics: What the flood leaves behind is what we've got to make. “I like that reckoning,” she says, “of the good and the bad and everything in between.”
Throughout the record, Helm sings stories of life’s relentlessness. But like she extrapolates from “Verse 23,” the most productive, and often the most healing response, is to create. As a result, What the Flood Leaves Behind serves as a defiant form of self-expression, as Helm steps fully into her own light.
This album contains no booklet.