Singer/songwriter Mike Powell has no shortage of inspiration for writing music. Raised in the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains, he taught himself guitar at the age of 13, boasting a catalog of 20 or so songs by the age of 15. Powell went on to become one of the most decorated college lacrosse players in history for Syracuse University, declining an offer to play in the pros straight out of college, opting instead to follow his passion for music and songwriting to the stage.
With the reverent simplicity of his soulful voice, an ax and a harmonica, he delivers nine heartfelt, timeless songs on his fourth album, Tied to the Rail. Eliciting influences from Bob Dylan and John Prine, Powell has been described as a “polite rebel; a truly unique and inspiring American voice,” by The Boston Globe. Powell has also released Blue Eyes and Hand Me Downs, Replevin and the 2014 Syracuse Area Music Award-nominated Kapow.
Powell eventually did play lacrosse professionally – for the Baltimore Bayhawks in 2005 and the Boston Cannons in 2007. Two years later, he was back on stage, touring alongside Sarah Lee, the granddaughter of Woody Guthrie. A woodworker, Powell nearly lost his ring finger on his playing hand while moving a stack of logs in 2014. With a varied past such as his, it comes as no surprise that Powell is such a great storyteller!
The album kicks off with the folk/southern rock hybrid “Empire,” a track which showcases the power of what one can accomplish with the simplicity of an acoustic guitar and Powell’s smokey yet earnest voice. It’s a taste of what’s to come – a no frills album showcasing powerful lyrics by a seasoned vocalist.
The second track, “Bibles and Bourbon,” features a signature steel guitar and is a short but sweet busker song, good for helping you get out of your own head.
His lyrics – like these from “Mary Anne” – are pieces of Americana.
When the water cost money and the drugs seem cheap
When all your dreams stay lost in your sleep
And you can feel a break down coming soon
When your head gets dizzy from the rattle and the spin
And the sadness seems to burn on your skin
And every night you’re left yelling at the moon
Conjuring up images of dusty railroad tracks and bible thumping preachers, “Tied to the Rail” combines folk, soul and a bit of country to create a sound that is sure to give you the feels. Inspired by the birth of his daughter in 2016, Powell is back on the road promoting his third album.
You can catch Powell on the road Tuesday, December 13 at the Light Club Lamp Shop in Burlington, Vermont, at Ray Brothers BBQ in Bouckville, New York on Friday, December 23 and at the Brae Loch Inn in Cazenovia on Friday, December 30.
In January, he returns to the studio with his Black River Band to record a new record set to release in March. He resumes his tour in early 2017 with over a dozen upstate New York appearances already scheduled, many of which Powell will be joined by Black River Band featuring John Hanus on guitar, Shane Kelson on keys, Joe Bell on bass and Dom Scicchitano on drums, with intimate solo shows when appropriate.
Key tracks: Empire, Bibles and Bourbon, Mary Anne