Syracuse’s The Black River, led by singer-songwriter Mike Powell, has released its first album, entitled Classic Universe. The soulful quintet, who take their name from the North Country river that passes by Powell’s childhood home, came together just over one year ago and have been quickly making their name known throughout New York.
The album was produced by Jeff Aderman at Utica’s Big Blue North Studio and exhibits The Black River putting an impressive foot forward in its debut. In the year since the band debuted, they have opened for such artists as The Sadies, Shooter Jennings, The Trews, Mondo Cozmo and Eric Tessmer. A powerful afternoon set at last year’s moe.down also won the band new fans.
“One of the things we always talk about when we are sculpting these songs is to be sure to listen to one another. That may sound like a very simple concept but when you’re creating a collective sound it’s important that no player be on a sonic island. We aim to be one connected land mass of sound,” Powell said when asked about the goal of his new band. “I have surrounded myself and my songs with monster players that could easily step out and flex their muscles at anytime but all of us understand the importance of doing what is best for the song first.”
Powell’s assessment of this band is certainly true. All come from different musical backgrounds to forge a sound that isn’t easy to categorize. Longtime Powell collaborator, guitarist John Hanus’ metal chops and experimental solos add an unexpected yet welcome edge to Powell’s personal songwriting and the soulful force created by keyboardist Shane Kelsen and the rhythm section of Joe Bell and Dom Scicchitano. The band’s frequent live performances have helped hone its unique sound over the past year and the band is gelling as a unit at the perfect time.
To celebrate the release of the new album, the Black River recently performed the inaugural live session for Syracuse radio show Soundcheck at SubCat Studios. You can view that peformance below. The show, hosted by long time Syracuse radio personality and SAMMYS Hall of Famer, Dave Frisina, has been on the air since 1979. It showcases local and regional musicians each Sunday night at 9:00 p.m. on 105.9 The Rebel.
Frisina’s new series is called Live @ SubCat Studios and will feature a different local act performing live in front of a studio audience each month.
The Black River’s Classic Universe is available now on all streaming platforms. Recent performances have included stops at the del Lago Resort and Casino in Waterloo and Three Heads Brewing Company in Rochester. They’re also scheduled to perform at Al’s Wine and Whiskey Lounge in Syracuse in March and Funk ‘N Waffles Syracuse in April. Follow The Black River on Facebook or at their website for information on upcoming performances.