Album Reviews

Music You Don't Know You Like Yet

Dirk Powell

Walking Through Clay


To have Steve Earle's endorsement in the sphere of folk and country music is an accomplishment in itself, but to have him say that you are "the greatest old-time banjo player alive" (and "a badass") is quite another thing entirely. Enter Dirk Powell, the recipient of this glowing praise, who has been playing music rooted in Appalachian tradition since he learned guitar, banjo and fiddle as a child from his father and grandfather; in addition to this, he plays 7 other instruments (including the diatonic button accordion) and has studied Creole and Cajun styles. Powell has collaborated with the likes of Loretta Lynn, Joan Baez, Jack White, and Kris Kristofferson. He also composed the music for the 2003 film Cold Mountain, on which Jude Law attested, "Hearing Dirk play fiddle on the set of Cold Mountain, it felt like my work as an actor had already been done for me."

All this in perspective, Powell's 2013 album Walking Through Clay is an effective display of not only his versatility as a musician, spanning through several genres and cycling through various instruments, but also his assured ability of crafting songs that meld said styles and energies in a way that is evocative of traditional American music (folk, bluegrass, the occasional blues riff) while still managing to sound modern. Tracks like "Rollin' Through This Town," "That Ain't Right," "As I Went Out A'Walkin'" as well as the title track are all upbeat jams with an emphasis on driving slide guitar riffs paired with accordion and usually fiddle, creating honky tonk vibes. "Goodbye Girls" is a nod to traditional Appalachian music, "Abide By Me" has a melancholy swing, and many are sweet and slow ballads such as "Break The Chains," "Some Sweet Day," and the record's prettiest cut, "Golden Chain." All in all, Walking Through Clay aptly reflects Dirk Powell's identity as a musician: firmly rooted, yet somehow always rollin' through a new frontier.

Recommended Tracks: #2 "Walking Through Clay", #3 "Some Sweet Day", #11 "Golden Chain"

Sigmund Steiger

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Compiled by the WYCE Journalism Club

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