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Liner Notes: An Evening of Songs & Stories
November 16, 2019 @ 8:00 pm - 11:00 pm
Amy Helm sought what she calls a “circular sound” for her new album. It’s a well-rounded one, one marked by streaks of Americana, country, blues, and gospel, and the kinds of four-part harmonies that can burst open a melody and close the loop of an octave. And sentimentally, it’s a sound that represents the feeling of community.
This Too Shall Light, released 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.
Although a profound songwriter herself, Helm and Henry jointly arranged a diverse collection of songs for the record, which range from Rod Stewart’s “Mandolin Wind” to Allen Toussaint’s “Freedom for the Stallion” and even the Milk Carton Kids’ “Michigan.” The title track in particular, written by Hiss Golden Messenger’s MC Taylor and Josh Kaufman (Josh Ritter, Bob Weir, Craig Finn), is a brilliant summation of the record’s sound and spirit. Seemingly a play on the old adage that “This too shall pass,” Helm’s voice veers from commanding to supplicating within a single soulful verse, as she manipulates that message so that light leads throughout even the darkest of times.
A lifelong musician and music-lover, Helm’s parents —The Band’s legendary drummer and singer Levon Helm and singer/songwriter Libby Titus — guided her training and influences. She later became a founding member of the alt-country collective Ollabelle and served as a backing musician in her father’s Midnight Ramble Band. And on This Too Shall Light, Helm says that two songs in particular pay homage to Levon — “The Stones I Throw,” a song he released in 1965 with Levon and the Hawks, and the closing traditional number, an a cappella version of the hymnal “Gloryland,” which was passed from father to daughter.
While This Too Shall Light is only Helm’s second album under her own name, it serves as a comprehensive portrait covering her life’s journeys and recoveries; They’re the stories that, no matter where they take her, seem to end and begin in the same place like a circle.
Erin McKeown is a musician, writer, and producer known internationally for her prolific disregard of stylistic boundaries. Her brash and clever electric guitar playing is something to see. Her singing voice is truly unique —clear, cool, and collected. Over the last 20 years, she has performed around the world, released 10 full length albums, and written for film, television, and theater, all the while refining her distinctive and challenging mix of American musical forms.
Her first musical, Miss You Like Hell, written with Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Quiara Alegría Hudes, opened Off-Broadway at The Public Theater in 2018. It was nominated for 5 Drama Desk Awards, including Best Lyrics, Best Music and Best Orchestrations, and The Wall Street Journal named it Best Musical of 2018.
Leading her own band, she has performed at Bonnaroo, Glastonbury, and the Newport Folk Festivals. A familiar presence on NPR and the BBC, McKeown’s songs have also appeared in numerous commercials and television shows.
While a student at Brown University, Erin was a resident artist at Providence, RI’s revolutionary community arts organization AS220. A 2011-2012 fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center For Internet & Society, she is also the recipient of a 2016 writing fellowship from The Studios of Key West and a 2018 residency at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.
McKeown is the 2020 Professor of the Practice at Brown University.
Kris Delmhorst is an American songwriter, singer, and instrumentalist. She has released six full length records on the respected indie label Signature Sounds, as well as a panoply of EPs, side projects, and collaborations. A wide-ranging, eclectic artist, her recordings have included intimate acoustic sets, rock band renderings, home-recording landscapes collaged from found and unexpected sounds, and works of classic poetry refigured and set to music – not to mention an all-acoustic collection of covers of songs by new-wave masters The Cars.
A constant collaborator, Delmhorst has appeared on vocals, cello, and fiddle on records and stages with fellow songwriters Anais Mitchell, Lori McKenna, Chris Smither, Mary Gauthier, Erin McKeown, Winterpills, Peter Mulvey, Gregory Alan Isakov, and many more.
Delmhorst’s newest album, THE WILD (Oct 2017), was co-produced with her husband, songwriter Jeffrey Foucault, and features a band drawn from players they share long history with as bandmates and friends, the album merges Delmhorst’s sophisticated melodies and hauntingly open voice with Foucault’s lean aesthetic to deliver a darkly hopeful, fiercely wise new collection of songs.
Delmhorst lives in western Massachusetts with Foucault and their young daughter.