For bluegrass virtuoso Molly Tuttle, Neil Young’s “Helpless” has been a concert staple for years, often played as an encore in her live shows. Now she has released a studio version of the song, which Young issued 50 years ago this past March with his then-band mates David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash. Driven by a simple folk melody and stark, yet color-filled lyrics, Tuttle’s plaintive take on the tune also showcases the members of Old Crow Medicine Show.
Tuttle has also announced that 100 percent of the proceeds from digital streams of “Helpless” will be donated to WhyHunger’s Rapid Response Fund, providing immediate economic relief and direct support to those most impacted by hunger and poverty during the COVID-19 crisis.
Of “Helpless,” the award-winning musician says, “I love when the audience sings along and we get a sense that we’re all connected. I recorded this version a couple years ago with Ryan Hewitt who produced my album, When You’re Ready, but we never found the right time to release it. It was like a light bulb went off a couple months ago when we thought of asking Old Crow Medicine Show to play on it. Years after I recorded my parts, they went in and added exactly what the song had been missing. The harmonies they added on the chorus gave me chills and made me think of singing it with audiences at shows before quarantine started. We’re all still so connected even though we can’t sing with each other in person right now and that’s what I hope this song conveys.”
Tuttle and Old Crow Medicine Show join a long list of artists who have covered “Helpless” in the 50 years since Young first recorded it with his band Crazy Horse, before including it on CSNY’s album Déjà Vu. That list includes The Band and Joni Mitchell, Nick Cave, k.d. lang, Arcade Fire, Nazareth and many others.