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Dirk Powell Returns With 'When I Wait For You'


“'When I Wait for You,' draws on Cajun and Celtic roots, and more.

Dirk Powell Returns With 'When I Wait For You'

Renowned producer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and sideman Dirk Powell is releasing his first album on Compass Records today. WHEN I WAIT FOR YOU, included in NPR New Music Friday's "New and Notable" releases today, confirms why Powell has achieved near legendary status in the international roots music scene. While his bonds with Louisiana and with the mountains of Kentucky are unmistakable, so is his far-reaching vision and ability to translate the essence of tradition for modern audiences that need the timeless and sustaining messages that tradition brings.

WHEN I WAIT FOR YOU contains 13 tracks, all but one of which are original. The songs showcase Powell's gritty vocals - reminiscent of Levon Helm in one moment and his mentor and former father-in-law, Cajun legend Dewey Balfa, in the next - and penchant for catchy melody and deep grooves set against a soundscape of fiddles, accordion, whistles, harmonica, and rhythm section. Donald Shaw (Capercaillie) co-produced the album, which was recorded in Louisiana and Scotland and features special guests Rhiannon Giddens, Sara Watkins, Sean Watkins, Mike McGoldrick, and John McCusker. He even enlists his daughters, Amelia and Sophie Powell,who grew up in the studio, to add tight-knit sister harmony to the background vocals.

Watkins adds her soulful energy, talent, and virtuosity to the one traditional track, "The Silk Merchant's Daughter," as well as dueting with Powell on "The Little Things." Giddens, who is one of Powell's closest friends and musical collaborators (Powell co-produced her 2017 release FREEDOM HIGHWAY and her 2019 collaboration with Leyla McCalla, Allison Russell and Amythyst Kiah, SONGS OF OUR NATIVE DAUGHTERS) appears on "I Ain't Playing Pretty Polly", "Say Old Playmate" and "Jack of Hearts."

Dirk brought Shaw, McGoldrick and James Mackintosh from England and Scotland to his Louisiana studio for the sessions. With his mother ill at the time, he couldn't drive the three hours from Lafayette to New Orleans when they flew in; they settled for a Greyhound trip. "That was diving into the Louisiana experience, directly and fully, in the most real way," Dirk says with a laugh. Immersed in his studio, located on the banks of the Bayou Teche, they found a blend that reflected the best of both worlds.

"It was beautiful to feel their Celtic sounds merge with the old cypress wood of the walls, and the humid air, and settle into the energy of this place," he says.

"Creating with them in the studio, and letting all the music we've listened to over the years flow into new art together, was a beautiful thing."

Over the course of his career, Dirk Powell has recorded and toured with Eric Clapton, Joan Baez, Rhiannon Giddens, Linda Ronstadt, Jack White, Loretta Lynn, and many others. His work in film, including the renowned "Cold Mountain", found him collaborating with producers like T Bone Burnett, and directors like Anthony Minghella and Ang Lee. He was a founding member of the important Cajun group Balfa Toujours and has been a regularly featured artist in the award-winning BBC series THE TRANSATLANTIC SESSIONS. WHEN I WAIT FOR YOU is the follow up to his 2014 Sugar Hill release WALKING THROUGH CLAY.

Blending his deep understanding of American roots music with a unique ability to weave traditional sounds into a contemporary musical tapestry, Powell has delivered one of the freshest and most engaging folk and roots albums of the year.


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