One Camp Street
Cambridge, MA 02140
A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Arthur Berman
In these days of cross over artists and genre bending recordings, Dirk Powell stands out as a person grounded in traditional mountain music. Although he grew up in northern Ohio, the Powell family is originally from eastern Kentucky. Dirk was fascinated by the music of his grandfather who ably passed on his knowledge to his kinsman. We are blessed by the result of Dirk's grounding in tradition and talent in this new CD. It provides almost an hour of old time and bluegrass music done from the heart with a fine sense of musicianship.
Tim O'Brien is the most familiar person on the roster of pickers Powell has gathered for this effort, but all provide just the right touch on pieces which cover a variety of moods and styles. The CD starts with Lonesome Dove which has the drive and spirit one expects in the best old time performances. Powell and his supporting cast capture the feel of the music without giving it a museum piece kind of quality. The music is alive and kicking.
Morehead, a fiddle showpiece, was sparked by memories of Dirk's grandfather riding through the night to provide a fiddle to an unexpected guest who filled the night with music as a result.
Little Sachel slows things down as Powell plays a slow clawhammer banjo in this sentimental song. Jim Miller provides the soulful vocal on this selection and seems to capture just the right feel for the songs throughout this project.
Back on the fiddle for Wake Robin, Powell captures those mountain fiddle tones with an ease and beauty which many hot pickers never understand, let alone obtain.
Tim O'Brien joins the fun with the familiar Pretty Polly in which he sings with emotion but not unnecessary embellishment. Powell displays his writing talent on Craggy Spring which sounds like it has been played in the mountains for many decades. Like many old mountain tunes, Craggy Spring sounds perfect with just the fiddle and clawhammer banjo, played here by John Herrmann. On Old Virginia, Powell continues to display his virtuosity, this time with his mastery of two finger style banjo picking.
As if this were not enough Powell takes out his guitar to show mastery of a third instrument, the lead fingerpicked guitar, on the bluegrass style gospel tune he wrote, Throw Down Your Earthly Crown. This selection also has some tasty mandolin by O'Brien.
This CD is a must for any fan of old time music. It combines the best of picking with a wide, complementary variety of songs which makes for good listening.
Edited by Paula Gregorowicz