Dirk Powell’s fourth solo record is set for official release on February 4 on Sugar Hill Records. Dirk is a guy who has appeared everywhere you want to be if you’re an aspiring sideman in the realm of traditional acoustic Americana. He has worked on various projects with the likes of Jack White, Loretta Lynn, Tim O’Brien, Joan Baez, John Doyle, Foghorn Stringband, and many others. And by all accounts, Walking Through Clay is the record that Dirk has always wanted to make. It seamlessly combines elements of Appalachian, Cajun, and southern rock with a modern indie sound that never loses its garage-punk edge.
Like myself, he is the progeny of the Appalachian diaspora, his family having moved north of the Ohio River for work, just as mine did. And much like myself, he seems to have found in oldtime music his own personal antidote for Ohio’s dreary, insipid stripmall-and-freeway landscape. (Read Dirk’s essay here.) I moved south of the river as as soon as I possibly could, following the scent of honesty and grit up into the hills. What is it about being one generation removed from the mountain that makes one long to return? And when you do, do you realize why your parents or grandparents left their homes in the first place? Eventually I moved westward to California, and Dirk has taken root in Louisiana, where he is raising his two daughters.
Walking Through Clay achieves a unique American sound that sounds both timeless and southern. On his website, Powell says he made an effort to keep things unified. “I wanted to make sure it didn’t sound like fusion or a concept, like I’m mixing this with that. I wanted it to feel like it’s my world and my brain and my heart and the actual musical world that I live in, where things are not really separate. It always sounds real.”
This week Fiddlefreak ponders the eternal question: can a music blogger have a favorite band? Or should he? As it happens, I lucked into an advance copy of Outshine the Sun from Foghorn Stringband last weekend at the annual CBA Father’s Day Festival in Grass Valley, California. The miles flew by as we burned up the road, heading southward toward home, past Sacramento, Stockton, Lodi, and Salinas, with the volume cranked up. Outshine was recorded at home, and it sounds like it. That’s not a bug, it’s a feature. Back in the day, oldtime music was always played next to the woodstove, or on the front porch. It’s just that Foghorn always plays it so freaking WELL.
Outshine the Sun
Over the years, Foghorn has evolved into a tight quartet consisting of Caleb Klauder on mandolin, Sammy Lind on fiddle, Nadine Landry on bass, and their newest member Reeb Willms on guitar. (That’s a nickname for Rebecca, and happens to be ‘beer’ spelled backwards.) Other than their lineup, Foghorn hasn’t changed much. They’re still kicking major ass with their repertoire of obscure old-timey fiddle tunes, Cajun dance pieces, and early bluegrass numbers. They’re still the gold standard. Oldtime acoustic Americana music is exploding these days, and Foghorn is leading the charge without even trying to put their mark on it. You hear Foghorn, and you know it’s Foghorn. Face it, people. There’s Foghorn–and there’s everyone else. Enjoy!
The newest iteration of Fiddlefreak favorite Foghorn Stringband is the fooktastic Foghorn Trio, with Stephen ”Sammy” Lind on fiddle, banjo, guitar and vocals, Caleb Klauder on mandolin, guitar, fiddle and vocals and Nadine Landry on guitar, bass and vocals. Although these three have recorded together on previous occasions, their first full-length collaboration just hit the streets, titled Sud de la Louisiane. Its unassuming packaging belies what lies inside the simple cardboard envelope: 14 tracks of joy that range from heartland fiddle to Cajun heartbreak to old-school honky-tonk heaven.
Sud de la Louisiane
Much has been said about certain urban revivalists that resurrect and even profit from the music of a culture to which they are outsiders. Well that ain’t Foghorn. I know nothing about the heritage of the Trio, other than the fact that Sammy saws a fiddle tune that could beat the devil, Caleb totally owns every song he sings, and Nadine has some deep French-Canadian family links. And the truth is, I don’t give a flying flock where they come from. In my book, when you play your music well enough to help define the genre, you’re IN. That’s exactly what Foghorn Trio does for traditional American folk music. Sud de la Louisiane will float you down a big muddy river to a red-hot front-porch pickin party that goes on all night.
The CD was recorded in Eunice, Louisiana by Joel Savoy at Studio SavoyFaire. (The picture on the cover shows Joel’s studio, which occupies the former home of his grandfather’s cook shack.) Get this CD, sit back in your rocker and enjoy a satisfying slice of bona fide old-time Americana.
“You have to know where the party is to find this music. Welcome to our kitchen. Put away your earplugs for awhile.” –David Greely (liner notes)
Sud du Sud
To fans of Cajun dance music, David Greely is well known as the fiddler from Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys, where he was a founding member over 20 years ago. Waltzes and 2-steps are at the core of the Cajun repertoire, and bayou dance halls reverberate with dance tunes until the wee hours when the band comes to town. But after hours, a few stragglers may gather to jam until dawn, and that’s where you might hear the kind of tunes that David has recorded on his new solo record “Sud du Sud.”
The material on Sud du Sud ranges from rare and older polkas, cotillions, and galops to original pieces of his own composition. Without any accordion present, his fiddle really shines on this record, and he is supported by guitar, fiddles, and piano here and there. Fiddlefreak recommended!
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