Thursday, January 17, 2013


Singer-songwriter Powell has been playing originals for over a decade, with a couple of E.P.'s behind him, but this is his first long-player.   With a base in Toronto but roots in the Prairies, he has an organic feel, a lot more big skies in his music than tall skyscrapers.  It's folk-rock with an upbeat feel, a fellow traveler with the likes of Jeremy Fisher and David Myles, acoustic guitar to the front, a good groove in behind, with some pickin', drums snapping along, bass slapped and a smile on all faces.

It's some sort of Canadian genre I think.  Similar gentlemen from the U.K., say David Gray or James Blunt, also have sincere and rich voices, but are way, way too serious and self-referential.  Sappy, even.  Powell, even at his most mellow, as in the song This Cigarette, a heartbreak number, just tells it like it is with a good image, thinking of her while having a smoke, lingering thoughts making taking a drag, a drag.  And he's not about to ring tears out of you; he lets that drop quickly, moving into the album's biggest rocker, Insecurities, with its electric riffs and advise to "turn the lights down low 'til we lose our..." (see title).  Anyway, we do this whole guy-with-guitar and cool voice so much better, because, I guess, guys like Powell are a lot more real.  Plus, this is the basic bonfire style of strumming and singing that's been passed on from lumber camps to summer camps to Gord Lightfoot to Blue Rodeo.

Mostly I like how laid-back and warm Powell makes his songs sound.  Even when you find out that the song Freja is named after his daughter, and is about protecting and loving her, there's no lingering sentimentality, just a good feeling you take into the next song.  And anyone who can write a song called Toronto and make it sound dramatic and compelling, well, the guy's got some talent.

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