Amy Helm has the joy.
The Woodstock native and daughter of The Band’s heartbeat Levon Helm returned to Buffalo Iron Works Saturday night before an adoring crowd that would have been bigger had she been able to take the stage before 10 p.m. Nevertheless, Helm and her backing quartet received a warm welcome for their a cappella opener of The New Birth’s “You Are What I’m All About,” followed by a love letter to Levon Helm’s lineage in “Cotton and the Cane,” summoning sounds from his native Arkansas through Appalachia, stretching beyond from New Orleans to Canada - the full trail of Americana music.
Helm pours full-throated feeling into every note she sings, moving on stage with the spirit of every beat. In turn, her band has no flat feet, led by University at Buffalo alum Adam Minkoff on bass and vocals along with guitarist Mark Marshall, drummer Tony Mason and Kevin Bents on keys and vocals.
With smiles and soaring three-part harmonies, they followed her own “Rescue Me” with covers of T-Bone Burnett’s “River of Love” and early Levon and the Hawks hit “The Stones I Throw.” They then gathered around a single mic and Helm’s mandolin as she invited earnest singer Sean Walsh from opening Southern soul quintet The National Reserve to help sing about “Deep Water” and Tom Petty’s “No Second Thoughts.”
A funky undertone bent Bob Dylan’s “Meet Me in the Morning” before her “Michigan” marked the climax of the set, as searing organ and guitar solos followed a soaring chorus.
During a stirring encore rendition of Levon Helm lover Allen Toussaint’s “Yes We Can Can,” Helm called out to mothers and teachers to spread the song’s message of help and hope with an engaging love of song and fellowship that’s easy to follow; she is the embodiment of Levon’s last words, “Keep it goin’.”
Amy Helm, Sept. 29 at Buffalo Iron Works