First Appeared in The Music Box, March 2005, Volume 12, #3
Written by John Metzger
By the time he reached the age of 20, Michael Powers already had achieved more than most who venture into the fiercely competitive music business. As a member of The Ad Libs, he scored a hit single with The Boy from New York City, and just prior to his high school graduation, he received an offer he couldn’t refuse: a slot as the guitarist in James Cotton’s touring band. Although he continued to enjoy modest success with his subsequent ensemble Moonbeam, Powers settled into relative obscurity within New York City’s blues community in the wake of the group’s dissolution. Rediscovered in 2002 by Baryon Records’ founder Andrew Mullhaupt, Powers makes his triumphant return on Onyx Root, an outing that rightfully has earned a pair of W.C. Handy award nominations in the categories of "Best New Artist" and "Contemporary Blues Album of the Year." Throughout the collection, Powers’ gravelly, world-weary vocals are passionate and raw, while his performance on guitar is nothing short of stellar. Perhaps the biggest surprise about Onyx Root, however, is the diversity of styles in which Powers is extraordinarily proficient. Indeed, where many artists tend to focus upon a particular aspect of the blues, Powers dabbles in a little bit of everything, and each is delivered with absolute perfection. Successful Son, for example, is an exercise in the primitivism of John Lee Hooker, while retooled renditions of Willie Dixon’s Can’t Quit You Baby and Muddy Waters’ Country Boy seamlessly connect the Mississippi Delta with the smoke-filled clubs of Chicago. Elsewhere, Powers delves into funk on Shimmy Up, stampedes through the garage-rock thunder of the Count Five’s Psychotic Reaction, delivers Graffiti with all the understated beauty of Jimi Hendrix’s Little Wing, and transforms Leonard Cohen’s Bird on a Wire into a stunning soul song. Backed by a supporting cast that includes bass player Neil Jason (Paul McCartney, Roxy Music), drummer Steve Jordan (Keith Richards, Sheryl Crow), and Ollabelle’s Jimi Zhivago, Amy Helm, Fiona McBain, and Glen Patscha, Powers wraps the past, present, and future of the blues into a tight-knit bow that makes a convincing case for why he never should be forgotten again. ˝
Onyx Root is available
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2005 The Music Box