Sheridan Opera House: Amy Helm & the Handsome Strangers, 12/27

Sheridan Opera House: Amy Helm & the Handsome Strangers, 12/27

 Amy Helm & the Handsome Strangers kick off the 2015 Holiday Concert Series at Telluride’s historic Sheridan Opera House with a concert on Sunday, December 27, 2015, 8 p.m. (Doors, 7:30.) Tickets are $45 GA; $55 reserved seats. On sale at 

Amy Helm poster copy

In 2014, Telluride Blues & Brews Festival had this to say about this versatile singer-songwriter with a rangy voice and “a certain loose-limbed sensibility” (Rolling Stone, 2015), she shares with the likes of Bonnie Raitt:

“There’s something about musical bloodlines that cannot be denied. Amy Helm is the daughter of The Band’s Levon Helm and singer/songwriter Libby Titus, and a lifetime of growing up around some of the finest American music ever recorded is evident. Her talent takes up where her daddy’s leaves off – her voice is an exquisite instrument and she is an accomplished drummer and mandolin player.

She is a founding member of the roots band, Ollabelle, which has three acclaimed albums to its credit. Along with her late father, she brought to fruition the Midnight Rambles at the family farm in upstate New York, a tradition of loose and inspired jam sessions that continue to this day. Helm’s own folk-rock repertoire is soulful and deep and will feature her original songs as well as folk and rock songs that are steeped in her heart. Levon passed the torch and we’re happy to report it’s still on fire.”

When Amy was in town for Blues & Brews, she performed on the Main Stage, but she also did a late-night show at the historic Sheridan Opera House, where she returns with her band, the Handsome Strangers, to kick off  the Sheridan Arts Foundation’s Holiday Concert Series.

“I’m just trying to tell some stories as honestly as I can,” Amy Helm says of ​Didn’t It Rain, ​her first solo album and her eOne Music debut.

Although the personally charged, organically soulful ​Didn’t It Rain ​is her first release under her own name, Amy Helm has been making music for most of her life. She’s already won widespread praise as a singer, songwriter and live performer, first as a member of Ollabelle and subsequently for her extensive work with her father, musical icon Levon Helm, who passed away in 2012.

Blessed with a commanding, deeply expressive voice and an uncanny songwriting skill that instinctively draws upon a deep well of American musical traditions, Amy Helm delivers a timelessly powerful statement with Didn’t It Rain.

The spellbinding dozen-song set is rooted in first person experience, exploring universal themes of life, love and loss on such musically and emotionally resonant originals as the smoldering soul ballad “Rescue Me,” the hushed, lilting “Deep Water,” the meditative “Roll Away” and the stark, haunting “Wild Girl.”


Complementing Helm’s originals are her personalized takes on the Sam Cooke classic “Good News” and the traditional title track, which she delivers with the heartfelt gospel urgency that’s always been an element of her vocal persona.

Accompanying Helm on ​Didn’t It Rain​ is an impressive roster of players and singers that demonstrates the esteem in which the artist is held by her peers.

Helm’s former Ollabelle band mate Byron Isaacs, who produced the album, co-wrote the majority of the songs with Helm, and is featured as one third of Helm’s current live trio the Handsome Strangers, playing bass alongside guitarist Daniel Littleton and drummer David Berger. Also contributing to their talents are Little Feat keyboardist Bill Payne; guitarists Larry Campbell, Chris Masterson and Jim Weider; keyboardists Marco Benevento, John Medeski and Brian Mitchell; and guest backup vocalists Carolyn Leonhart, Elizabeth Mitchell, Allison Moorer, Catherine Russell and Teresa Williams.

Didn’t It Rain ​also marked the final recording sessions of Levon Helm, who acted as the project’s executive producer as well as adding his unmistakable drumming on three tracks.

Many of the songs in ​Didn’t It Rain​  are the product of an extended period during which the artist endured a series of personal trials and life changes, including the April 2012 passing of her father and chief musical mentor.

Amy Helm began connecting with audiences early in life, playing her first gig in her early teens in a Manhattan bar and drifting informally through a series of combos before her father recruited her to join his live band. She also absorbed musical and personal inspiration from her mother, noted singer/songwriter Libby Titus; and her stepfather, Steely Dan co-mastermind Donald Fagen, who offered Amy additional opportunities to find herself as a performer.

“I always did gigs through high school and college,” she explains, “but my fears and insecurities kept me from committing to it. That’s when my dad became a huge influence; he scooped me up when I was in my mid 20s and put me in this blues band. I was very, very green, but I got my road dog status with him. It was like walking through fire every time I got on stage, but it forced me to decide if I wanted to do this. And I decided that I absolutely wanted to do it.”

Amy’s vocal and songwriting talents soon found a home in the New York-based Ollabelle, whose three acclaimed albums and countless live gigs saw her evolve into a confident, charismatic performer. She also resumed her musical collaboration with her father, singing and playing in his band, playing on and co-producing his Grammy winning 2007 comeback album Dirt Farmer​, and helping to organize the now legendary Midnight Ramble concerts at Levon’s home studio in Woodstock, NY.

“He was the best teacher, in so many ways,” Amy says of her father. “He wasn’t interested in overthinking anything; all he cared about was playing music. He saw himself as a working musician, and it was serious business and it had to be right. Playing side by side with him in the Ramble band for ten years, and building those shows with him, really changed the way I approached things, and his humility influenced and shaped me as a musician, as it did everyone who played with him.”

For a preview of Amy Helm’s show at the Opera House, watch this video of her performing “Didn’t It Rain” at Telluride Blues & Brews:


The Sheridan Arts Foundation was founded in 1991 as a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization to preserve the historic Sheridan Opera House as an arts and cultural resource for the Telluride community, to bring quality arts and cultural events to Telluride and to provide local and national youth with access and exposure to the arts through education. The Sheridan Arts Foundation is sponsored in part by grants from the Telluride Foundation and CCAASE.

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