Friday, November 9th
Tickets: $15 advance, $18 day of show, general admission seated, on sale Friday, July 27th at 12noon at Ticketfly.com or the Babeville Box Office (M-F 10a-5p), or charge by phone 866-777-8932
7pm Doors 8pm Show
“We are the elders of our minds,” sings Sean Rowe on “Gas Station Rose,” the track that ushers in his fourth album, New Lore, with plaintive plucks of guitar and steady drips of piano that fall in like rain. It’s a sparse and beautiful moment, anchored by Rowe’s unparalleled voice – so full of gravely soul, aged and edged by years on the road, as a father and husband, as a creative force always looking for the next rhyme. And, so integral to the man that he is, one that is constantly absorbing nature. It wasn’t the easiest journey to get to the ten vulnerable songs that comprise New Lore (out April 7th care of Anti-) – it took a label change, a trip to Memphis and some support from unexpected places – but what resulted is a roadmap for a gentle heart in modern times, in a world where the best oracle isn’t within a computer, but within ourselves.
Though Rowe has often made his hometown of Troy, New York and its surrounding areas his creative base, New Lore brought a new environment, and a new producer. Appropriate to his love of folk-blues legends like Howlin’ Wolf, he ventured to Sam Phillips Recording studio in Memphis to work with Matt Ross-Spang (Jason Isbell, Margo Price). They tapped into the history of the legendary space to hone a sound that is at once rich and stark, putting Rowe’s deep and dynamic rage at the forefront. Because if high notes can shatter windows, Rowe’s low and guttural ones can meld sand into glass.
“I was looking for a specific sound and part of that was the rawness, the element of risk that Sam Phillips took with his artists,” Rowe says. “Since I was a kid I was really drawn to that music. I wasn’t really listening to music my peers were: I was really into old soul music, and music coming out of Memphis. It’s been in my work maybe in more subtle ways than now, but it’s always been in there.”
The songs on New Lore were often built to let Rowe’s voice come through in its most stirring capacity: from the wrenching ode to parenthood “I’ll Follow Your Trail” to the naturalistic “The Very First Snow,” instrumentals are layered carefully and artfully over the vocals, finding footing in Rowe’s sly and idiosyncratic guitar style. Much of what came was a result of Rowe going into the studio with a more relaxed approach – no preproduction was done, no demos finished. Rowe and Ross-Spang embraced an organic style that is so representative of how the singer-songwriter leads his life, and that is one of always fighting to flow gently with the earth, not against it.
“We were looking for perfect imperfection,” Rowe says. “If we fucked up and it was cool, then I wanted that in there. You let it happen and you don’t polish it too much.”
New Lore also ushered in a career shift – this time, after several years on Anti-, Rowe launched his own label, Three Rivers Records, and will release his LP as a collaboration with the Anti- family. He also embraced a new way of funding his work, using a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign to make the Memphis dreams a reality, and embarked on a series of house shows to reconnect with his fans at the most basic, intimate level.
“I kept asking myself, ‘What would be cool? What would be something different?,’” Rowe says. “That’s what led me to house shows, and to the Kickstarter and to just take chances. Those chances are what led me to early rock and roll in the first place – that’s all about taking chances. I had no idea what to expect, but I could tell as it got more momentum that people really wanted to see it happen.”
Rowe also found himself on another unexpected wave – his unreleased song “To Leave Something Behind” found life in Ben Affleck’s film The Accountant, exposing the mystique of his music to an even wider audience. Written five years ago in London, it echoes some of the themes that half a decade later surfaced again in New Lore: the things in life we pass down to our children, the ideas we learn from our elders, the shadows we leave behind when we are gone. The first single, “Gas Station Rose,” is about two people trying to navigate that together. “That’s the conflict to the story,” Rowe says. “They want to stick it out, but they know it’s incredibly hard to keep shit together. Conflict makes for a great song.”
So does opening yourself up to vulnerability: New Lore is formed from that tenderness, exposed like an open wound but one asking for healing, not to linger in pain. Like “Promise of You,” with a gospel swing inspired by Ketty Lester’s classic “Love Letters” and the piano-driven “I Can’t Make a Living From Holding You,” Rowe speaks to the reality of loving and leaving, a constant dilemma for a man who builds half of himself on tour playing to strangers and half of himself tucking his children in at night. Home is process, not a destination, and New Lore is a roadmap there – perfectly imperfect, raw and real.
“My music isn’t glossy or shiny,” Rowe says. “But it’s true.”
MIKE POWELL (solo)
Storytellers are the heart and soul of songwriting. The combination of the written word and an acoustic guitar that has been at the core of folk music for decades and Mike Powell follows in that tradition. A songwriting veteran with over two hundred songs in his catalog, Powell’s selected several dozen of those songs for the four albums that have been released since 2010. Many more of the songs have found their way into the live experience as a solo act or with the five-member band that he fronts, Mike Powell & The Black River.
The stage is where Powell thrives. He’s completed two nationwide tours and generally plays upwards of 150 shows a year where he not only delivers stories in song but also engages the audience with the narrative behind the writing of some of the music. His songs are relatable and connect with the audience whether it’s in an intimate listening room, over craft beer in a brewery tap room or speaking to larger audiences on a festival stage. Shows are less about Powell playing to an audience and feel more like he is playing with them.
Mike Powell is currently preparing for his fifth studio release, an EP titled Shelter Without Walls due out via Rising Feather Records October 5, 2018. The latest single, Twenty One Rounds, is a story of a fallen Navy sailor and was conceived when Powell was selected to participate in the Acoustic Guitar Project in 2016. The studio version was released via Powell’s social media channels on Memorial Day 2018. It was delivered to streaming services for a wider release two weeks later.
Outside of music, Powell owns and maintains Rising Feather, an art studio specializing in woodworking and other artisanal crafts.
Date(s) - 11/09/2018
341 Delaware Avenue