On Amy Helm's solo debut, the songs have a definite sonic arc. It's like getting off work Friday evening, having a cocktail with friends, going home to have a bubble bath and then falling asleep under a warm blanket in front of the TV.
Didn't It Rain kicks off with great promise and a nod to the musician's dad, Levon, the iconic drummer for The Band. Shambling percussion and funky bass usher in the title track, and gospel-tinged background vocals add to the fervor. "Rescue Me" follows, settling into a comfortable groove that wouldn't sound out of place on a Bruce Hornsby album. Things take a plugged-in hillbilly turn on the waltz "Spend Our Last Dime," and the slow burn of "Roll the Stone" has some great interplay between the percolating banjo and soulful bass. The pacing slows as the album goes on, closing with the hypnotic "Wild Girl," with its ghostly tremolo guitar and bait-and-switch title.
Didn't It Rain is comfortable music with soft, rounded corners, delivered with slick precision and a glossy sheen, rarely wavering outside the friendly confines of easy listening. That's not necessarily a bad thing, if what you're in the mood for is the aural equivalent of a Snuggie. A few more rough edges or lyrical left turns would have added some interest. I like my blankets a little scratchy.
Amy Helm & the Handsome Strangers play the Top Hat Fri., Aug. 12. Doors at 9 PM, show at 10. $18/$16 advance.