Mike Powell has had a prolific few years, performing throughout the northeast with his solo act, his duo, and his full band the Black River. He also released a solo album and an album with his band. This Friday, Oct. 5, Powell will release his latest solo effort, Shelter Without Walls.
The six song EP features two previously released, but re-worked songs, “Twenty One Rounds” and “Sad Day in Champion” and four brand new heartfelt compositions. The album can be pre-saved on Spotify and Apple Music through this link. It will be available on all streaming services beginning Oct. 5.
Powell is a unique storyteller who writes with emotion, breaking down walls to allow the listener into the story. He writes best when he draws from personal experiences. “Twenty One Rounds” tells the tale of a mother who lost her son while serving his country; something Powell has knowledge of through his upbringing in Carthage, just outside of the Fort Drum Army Base in Northern New York. This much-loved song gets a rework on the new EP and has lost little of the original’s emotional appeal.
Writing songs has always been a soul satisfying activity for me. I just have a deep love for words and telling stories. Music is the most impactful medium I’ve found for connecting with people and evoking emotion. Being able to play intimate acoustic sets in tandem with rock n’ roll shows with my band is like scratching two creative itches at once. I feel like I have two separate vehicles that share the same fuel system.
“Sad Day in Champion” recalls the closing of a paper mill in that same region of the North Country that affected so many of the people in the region as well as those close to the young Mike Powell.
One of Powell’s new songs, “Poison Diamond” closes the record. A dirgy number, highlighted by Hanus’ trademark guitar and a church-like organ, where the narrator laments, “You took my hand/You stole my heart/ You loved me to pieces/That’s what tore me apart/You set the fire/And it made me cold/You made me higher/And you cut me down low/That’s what tore me apart/I need some glue, or something heavy I can hold on to/This old bottle here will do/I’m never together with you.” This is one of the Powell’s most powerful recordings to date, from the lyrics to the delivery to the musicianship within the song. The subdued duet with a female voice on “I’m never together with you” hits the listener in the heart. This song could be Powell’s launching pad to a wider audience.
“The Polite Rebel” will also embark on the most ambitious month of his professional music career beginning Friday. The busy month kicks off with the Black River opening for Canadian rockers The Trews at Exhibition Hall in Watertown this Friday, Oct. 5. Following the Watertown gig, Powell and his duo partner, John Hanus trip down to Goshen, CT for a main stage gig at the Black Bear Americana Music Fest on Oct. 6. The weekend wraps on Sunday with an intimate gig at The Sinclair in Skaneateles on Oct. 7.
Powell’s intense schedule continues Oct. 10 and 11 as he makes his solo debut at Ani DiFranco’s 9th Ward at Babeville in Buffalo and Lovin’ Cup in Rochester. Oct. 12 sees Powell closer to home at the Brewerton Center for the Arts for another solo show.
The most highly anticipated nights of the month occur at the historic Nelson Odeon, a renovated former Grange Hall located in the rolling hills of Nelson, near Powell’s current hometown of Cazenovia on Oct. 13 and 14. These shows will be used to record Powell in both solo and duo formats as well as certain selections with the Black River, to be included in a future live Powell album.
The Odeon is one of Powell’s favorite rooms to perform and is the reason he chose this historic building for the recording of his first live album. He says of the building:
The Nelson Odeon stands for everything I love about music. It’s like stepping back to a simpler time. I have always dreamed of releasing a live record and this is the perfect room to try and bottle up a moment in time. It will be a special night.
The Black River, in addition to their gig opening for The Trews on Oct. 5, will take up a Thursday residency at King of Clubs in Syracuse’s famed Armory Square on Oct. 4 and 18. Dubbed “The Thursday Night Rock Show,” this ongoing event is hosted by the band and features some of the region’s top acts. Capital District rockers Wild Adriatic will join the Black River in a November session of “The Thursday Night Rock Show.”
Finally, on Oct. 19 Powell makes a trip to Blue Mountain Lake for a performance at the Adirondack Lakes Center for the Arts and wraps up with a songwriters and on Oct. 20 the 18 Songs Tour visits Casita del Polaris in Ithaca. This set brings together three of Central New York’s premier singer songwriters for a night of music – 18 songs- with Powell joined by Charley Orlando and Chris Merkley.
When not on the road, Powell will be in the studio recording the Black River’s sophomore effort. The band released its debut, Classic Universe in January.
Check out the video for “Sad Day in Champion” below featuring Powell and members of the Black River.