Hand Me Down
Inside the Pelican State, Dirk Powell is best known as the multi-instrumentalist with Cajun traditionalists Balfa Toujours and occasionally as Sean Ardoin's bassist at Swamp Fest gigs. Beyond Acadiana, Powell's alter ego is the renowned Appalachian multi-instrumentalist, playing the old-time mountain music that's a precursor to bluegrass. Without Powell's old-time soul, there wouldn't be Powell the Cajun practitioner. The inspiration of his Kentucky grandfather Clarence Hay provided the initial roots identity, which eventually opened another door to Cajun music. Despite the years of bayou living, Powell's second release of Appalachian music shows it's still possible to have one foot in the swamps and the other in the hills.
Of these eighteen tracks, a dozen are age-old traditionals learned from grandfather Hay and other musicians scattered through the hills of Kentucky, North Carolina and West Virginia. Five more are authentic originals while the finale is a convincing Appalachian-styled tune written by the versatile English composer Mychael Danna. Throughout this dozen-and-a-half, Powell plays a commanding fiddle and clawhammer banjo with equal aplomb. He drives his way with a spirited lack of restraint through festive fiddle melodies. On the quieter banjo tunes, Powell evokes cavernous feelings of introspectiveness. In essence, the music's very bloodline is tapped, done so with a stellar line-up featuring Donna the Buffalo's Jim Miller (guitar/vocals), Ginny Hawker (vocals), John Hermann (banjo), Meredith McIntosh (bass) and wife Christine Balfa (guitar). Additionally, Miller's classic high-end voice cuts in front of the instrumental midrange while his counterpart Hawkins sings several haunting, droning ballads. You don't have to have generations of hill-country ancestors to appreciate what the Powell pals do here. The door's always open. - Dan Willging
Audio © 1999 Dirk Powell and Rounder Records, used by express permission
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