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Multi-Instrumentalist Extraordinaire Dirk Powell Readies
Sugar Hill Records Debut, Walking Through Clay

 

 
Dirk Powell walking through clay

Nashville, Tenn. (Dec. 9, 2013) – Considered one of the finest Americana musicians performing today, with a musical voice grown directly from roots in Appalachian and Louisiana soil, Dirk Powell is set to release his fourth solo album and Sugar Hill Records debut, Walking Through Clay, on February 4, 2014. The album finds Powell, whom Steve Earle calls “the greatest old-time banjo player alive,” uniting the hard-hitting drums of guests like Levon Helm with homegrown electric guitars, fiddles, amplified fretless banjos and Creole accordions. Barriers between styles are cooked off and what remains is a fearlessly emotional portrait of rural American music presented as only Powell could. Throughout the 12 tracks on Walking Through Clay, the longtime Lafayette, La., resident speaks many musical languages with amazing fluency, bringing in guests like Jerry Douglas, Aoife O’Donovan, and Mike McGoldrick to help with the task.

“This is my life and what I love and what moves me,” Powell says. “It’s time to share it without any limitations.”

Powell’s musical identity shapes every note of his craft: He’s plucked his share of strings in Kentucky, where his grandfather passed down Appalachian fiddle and banjo tunes in the great aural tradition, and absorbed Cajun bowing straight from Dewey Balfa. But it’s his ability to unite those traditions with more modern sensibilities, while maintaining a deep commitment to     expression as the goal of any artistic endeavor, that has led to work with artists such as Jack White, Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle, Linda Ronstadt, Kris Kistofferson and Joan Baez, who says of Dirk, “God gave this one an overdose of talent.”

On Walking Through Clay, Powell has created a project that is the definition of  Americana — a quilt that stitches together the past and present in a way that honors both. The project carries generations of stories, including those of Powell’s own family roots. In fact, his great-great grandmother, Eliza Davis, shares the album dedication with Levon Helm and inspired the title     track, an upbeat song, on which banjo and fiddle step aside for an assertive electric-guitar solo.

The track “That Ain’t Right” stakes bluesy territory somewhere between Cajun and zydeco, and the Celtic-tinged traditional, “Goodbye Girls” aches with a dirge-like tempo. Another cut, the hymn “Abide With Me,” features the late Helm on drums and his daughter, Amy, on gospel harmonies, with New Orleans jazz horns in the procession. They recorded it at Helm’s Woodstock studio.

Powell’s film soundtrack credits range from Ang Lee’s Ride With the Devil to Spike Lee’s Bamboozled. Powell collaborated with Cold Mountain author Charles Frazier to create a musical companion to the bestselling novel, which led to Powell’s work on the Academy Award-winning film and the T Bone Burnett-produced soundtrack. Powell very recently teamed up with Burnett again for a concert to celebrate the early-60s folk era depicted in the Coen Brothers film, Inside Llewyn Davis. Taped in New York as a benefit for the National Recording Preservation Foundation, “Another Day, Another Time” features Powell performing with Joan Baez, Elvis Costello, Gillian Welch, Patti Smith and Marcus Mumford.

Dirk Powell doesn’t see tradition as a re-creation of the past or something to be preserved like a museum artifact; to him, it’s a map to help future generations navigate their own roads of expression. On Walking Through Clay, Powell invites listeners on his own unique journey through the highs and lows, past and present.

 

So Cal Tale Weaving  Nettie Rose at The Billy Block Show

Billy Block Into - Mercy Lounge 10/22/2013, photo - Brad Hardisty

Billy Block Into – Mercy Lounge 10/22/2013, photo – Brad Hardisty

Nettie Rose is a cross between a young June Carter growing up in Modern So Cal, instead of the Smoky Mountains with a Laurel Canyon era Graham Parsons partner Emmylou Harris singing thru the lens of a Gold rush street fightin’ San Fran Saloon Chanteuse.

Nettie Rose, Mercy Lounge 10/22/2013, photo - Brad Hardisty

Nettie Rose, Mercy Lounge 10/22/2013, photo – Brad Hardisty

Nettie Rose debuted on The Billy Block Show live from Mercy Lounge Tuesday night weaving tales from the San Francisco gold rush days to sharing her own stories of modern L.A.life.

Nettie Rose, Billy Block Show at Mercy Lounge, 10/22/2013, photo - Brad Hardisty

Nettie Rose, Billy Block Show at Mercy Lounge, 10/22/2013, photo – Brad Hardisty

Her voice is part plaintive Wildwood Flower , Wanda Jackson “Fuji Yama Mama” with a little scratch tickling the throat and sometimes pure catfight from a Boomtown Dance Hall girl that has been through too many “love ‘em and leave ‘em” romances from a transient California strike it rich past.

Nettie Rose at Billy Block Show, Mercy Lounge, 10/22/2013, photo - Brad Hardisty

Nettie Rose at Billy Block Show, Mercy Lounge, 10/22/2013, photo – Brad Hardisty

Nettie Rose had been in Nashville the past few days recording new songs, one of which ”Deaf Cowboy” was debuted during the six song set that gave Nashville a taste of California’s history and country music heritage as well as the first song she wrote, the sing-a-long “Ride, Ride, Ride.”

Lynn Shipley Sokolow, Fred Sokolow, Nettie Rose, Mercy Lounge, 10/22/2013, photo - Brad Hardisty

Lynn Shipley Sokolow, Fred Sokolow, Nettie Rose, Mercy Lounge, 10/22/2013, photo – Brad Hardisty

Current mentor and co-writer, Fred Sokolow was featured on some pre-Bakersfield Sound style Tele work as well as “Speedy West” Electric Hawaiian tone that played like on old California Town Hall Party 78 record.

John "Spazz" Hatton, with Nettie Rose at Mercy Lounge, 10/22/2013, photo - Brad Hardisty

John “Spazz” Hatton, with Nettie Rose at Mercy Lounge, 10/22/2013, photo – Brad Hardisty

Upright bassist extraordinaire, John “Spazz” Hatton, who has played with Brian Setzer, kept the bottom end somewhere between early Bob Wills and Sun Records’ Tennessee Two percussive slaps when needed, like they were goin’ to play the Grand Ole Opry in 1952 and couldn’t use a drummer.

Lynn Shipley Sokolow, Fred Sokolow, Nettie Rose at Mercy Lounge, 10/22/2013, photo - Brad  Hardisty

Lynn Shipley Sokolow, Fred Sokolow, Nettie Rose at Mercy Lounge, 10/22/2013, photo – Brad Hardisty

Lynn Shipley Sokolow on banjo gave the quartet a pre-war Americana feel to the evening.

Nettie Rose at Mercy Lounge, 10/22/2013, photo - Brad Hardisty

Nettie Rose at Mercy Lounge, 10/22/2013, photo – Brad Hardisty

Nettie Rose referenced Ernest Tubb as an inspiration on one song as she seemed to pull back the concrete jungle of modern Bay Area Cali and The Sunset Strip to reveal a parallel universe where Nettie Rose seemed to be an ether conduit for hard living gold rush era women telling their story of living from Mendocino and Oakland [“Last Chance Saloon”] on down to pre-highway Southern California where somebody was on horseback trying to outrun the law going over the “Grapevine.”

Nettie Rose at Mercy Lounge, 10/22/2013, photo - Brad Hardisty

Nettie Rose at Mercy Lounge, 10/22/2013, photo – Brad Hardisty

Nettie Rose did a cover of “Don’t Fence Me In” which fit the vintage motif although many songs reflected the current state of affairs written from a hanging out at McCabe’s Guitar Store point of view rather than partying with the ecstasy crowd.

Nettie Rose at Mercy Lounge, 10/22/2013, photo - Brad Hardisty

Nettie Rose at Mercy Lounge, 10/22/2013, photo – Brad Hardisty

The poetic lyrics reflect a well-read deep thinker rather than an insipid “throw your hands up in the air” refrain and this will remind listeners that California is also the land of Lucinda Williams and Ryan Bingham as well as the growing up years of songwriters’ Darrell Scott and Jeffrey Steel.

California is also the birthright of Tele’s and Fender Amps, Bigsby tailpieces, Dobro guitars and The Byrds’ “Sweetheart Of The Rodeo” as well as Rose Maddox’ pre-Rockabilly pumped up Hillbilly muse.

Nettie Rose at Mercy Lounge, 10/22/2013, photo - Brad Hardisty

Nettie Rose at Mercy Lounge, 10/22/2013, photo – Brad Hardisty

The one thing Nettie Rose accomplishes better than just about any muddy roots artist out there today is that she is able to weave modern tales and vintage sounds like they can co-exist without some weird juxtapose which doesn’t box her in like, say for example San Joaquin Valley throwback Frank Fairfield who can give a definitive 110 year old style from the top down on a Thompson Square 10 inch but, has a style that is very hard to translate into a modern storyline.  

Nettie Rose at Mercy Lounge, 10/22/2013, photo - Brad Hardisty

Nettie Rose at Mercy Lounge, 10/22/2013, photo – Brad Hardisty

The advance copy of People I Know shows diversity in storylines that go concurrently with real time to the California that the first Pioneers, Gold Miners and Okies experienced over the last two hundred years when it was the Wild, Wild, West. Colin Linden has production credits and is currently part of the team working with T Bone Burnett making music for the hit TV show Nashville

Nettie Rose at Mercy Lounge, 10/22/2013, photo - Brad Hardisty

Nettie Rose at Mercy Lounge, 10/22/2013, photo – Brad Hardisty

Nettie Rose appears to have a good West Coast based team of musicians, music business friends and a three generation music family that are supportive of her quest and it appears that will be helpful in her effort to be a genuine West Coast modern Bob Dylanesque storyteller of the rough and tumble life of California’s golden years.

Nettie Rose preachin' the Cali Blues, Mercy Lounge, 10/22/2013, photo - Brad Hardisty

Nettie Rose preachin’ the Cali Blues, Mercy Lounge, 10/22/2013, photo – Brad Hardisty

–          Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN    thenashvillebridgeathotmaildotcom

metro 50th sam bush del mccoury 03Last Saturday, Nashville celebrated the 50th Anniversary of Metro Government with a little get together of several thousand people on a rare warm spring day for this year with a celebration of music that included everything from Barbershop Quartet to a Night Train To Nashville All-Star Tribute for the grand finale.

The park in front of the courthouse has proven to be a good place to gather downtown just a few blocks north of Broadway.

Emmylou Harris kicked things off before Barbershop and String Quartets took a turn at the microphone.

metro 50th sam bush del mccoury 01Things finally kicked up a notch with one of the twin highlights of the afternoon as Sam Bush and Del McCoury jammed for several numbers trading off flat-picking and mandolin on well-known standards.

metro 50th sam bush del mccoury 02For some, this was the reason for hanging at the front of the stage while for others the rare appearance of many of Nashville’s classic R&B era was the reason to party.

metro 50th brenda lee mayor karl dean 01Before that, Brenda Lee walked up to the podium and addressed the crowd on what Nashville has meant for her and her career. It’s a great place to live as well as a chance ticket to stardom.

metro 50th jimmy church 01Jimmy Church kicked the Night Train section off with Bobby Hebb’s “Sunny” which is the quintessential song from the classic Jefferson Street years.

metro 50th marion james 02Marion James’ did the classic, “24 Hours A Day” with Michael Gray from The Country Music Hall of Fame talking about each song that was chosen and the artists that made them big.

The Valentines made a rare appearance as well as the McCrary Sisters.

metro 50th marion james 01It was a great afternoon break and an opportunity for parents to expose their children to some great live music.

– Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN     thenashvillebridge@hotmail.com