Thursday, March 29, 2012

Shelton Powe's Carolina Blues and Gospel

One of the latest recordings issued by the Music Maker Foundation is the debut of Shelton Powe, Carolina Blues and Gospel. While his earliest musical memories were the tent revival circuit with his family, as a youngster he immersed himself in the blues scene of Atlanta and mentored by the likes of Cora Mae Bryant, Neal Pattman, Cootie Stark and Frank Edwards. Over the years he has developed an extensive repertoire of songs and lyrics that he performs with a genial and ingratiating style with deft, fingerstyle guitar and relaxed vocals that convey a bit of the warmth of others in this East Coast style.

Songs cover both the secular realm as on the opening Stranger Blues, and the sacred one as heard on “Send Me,” with his firm rhythmic bass contrasting with his responsive use of the treble strings. His relaxed and agile fingerstyle playing is displayed on the instrumental Vestapol, where the melodic line suggests Robert Wilkins That’s No Way To Get Along/ Prodigal Son, while he plays slide guitar (suggestive of Fred McDowell) on Diving Duck Blues. He provides a personal interpretation of the traditional This Train, while he shows himself able on country blues harmonica on One Monkey Don’t Stop The Show, which complements his earnest singing. Down On Me is another performance on which his harmonica provides accompaniment (and another voice) to the vocal. “Buckdancer’s Choice is a fingerstyle instrumental in the vein of Etta Baker while he returns to slide guitar on his version of John Henry, where his slide accompaniment which also borrows a bit from Robert Wilkins’ afore-mentioned melody.

After a nice sacred When i Lay My Burden Down, with more nice slide guitar, he is joined by Drink Small who takes the lead on This Little Light of Mine, where Shelton adds vocal harmony and the guitar accompaniment. Shelton Powe may not be the next coming of Blind Boy Fuller or John Jackson, but he shows himself to be a very capable singer and musician rooted mostly in the traditions heard from Virginia down to Georgia.

I received this recording from the Music Maker Foundation in return for support I have provided the organization. The website of Music Maker Foundation is, and there is information on Powe and this recording there. This video (on youtube) of Shelton performing is on his page at the Music Maker Foundation.  

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