Jay N. Miller
Everyone has their own pandemic story, but Taunton native and musician Kerri Powers is quite unique.
“It was surreal” Powers mentioned. “Just at a time when I felt like I was really gaining momentum in my career, and everything was turned upside down.”
Powers is one of countless musicians who saw their careers and livelihoods come to an abrupt halt when COVID hit, and she can’t wait to get back on track. She’s headlining Arrow center Lobby Series on June 2, which features intimate shows in the venue’s small outdoor lobby. The 20th patron who walks through the doors will receive one of Powers’ original paintings.
“It was like a bad spy movie,” Powers said from his eastern Connecticut home, able to finally laugh at how and where the pandemic had taken him off course.
“I had just started a three-week tour of Germany and the Netherlands when my son called me and said they were closing everything, especially flights from Europe,” he said. she declared. “I drove to Dusseldorf and was able to fly to Dublin. I was surrounded by all these American students, returning from studying abroad, and we were all desperate to get home, and it was long queues lots of waiting and uncertainty Eventually I got on one of the last flights out of Dublin but when I got home they had lost my guitar and my luggage. I thought that was a small price to pay.
Three days later, the lost items were returned to him.
“Looking back, like three years of loss, and I’m so happy to be able to get out of it. We have some exciting things to come.”
Her father had died just before the pandemic hit and Powers was still grieving, so the ensuing lockdowns and end of live broadcasts were all part of a difficult time. It took over three months before Powers could start writing music. When she did, her thoughts flowed and the material came free. Soon after, she was talking with producer/drummer Marco Giovino, Tom Jones’ former musical director, and planning a new album.
Powers began her music career in the late 1980s, getting her start in the old Blackthorne Tavern in South Easton, where she was a waitress. When dynamic Irish singer-songwriter Luka Bloom headlined the Blackthorne, Powers opened for him, and he was very impressed with her talent and stage presence. Bloom said Powers reminded her of Raymond Chandler’s timeless description: “She has a look that could blow out a stained glass window by a bishop.”
“Save Me” and “Justified”
Powers oscillated between styles in his early years, a little folk, a little blues, maybe a nod to pop here and there. She released a handful of intriguing albums. Life intervened and she walked away from music to raise her family, working for a time as a personal trainer. Enduring a difficult divorce and indulging in painting as well as music, Powers gradually returned to the stage.
As her son Nolan headed off to college, she was ready to try a music career again. A self-titled EP in 2014 unexpectedly reached No. 1 on Roots Radio. If there was ever an artist destined to fit neatly into the emerging category of Americana, it’s Powers. Her songs continued to appear on the soundtracks of TV shows such as “Rescue Me” and “Justified”, and she was developing a loyal fan base on both sides of the Atlantic.
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Powers’ latest album, “Starseeds”, was released in 2018 and marked a new direction. She had always had a bluesy style, but years of logging had made her a dazzling guitarist, and her new material used a lot of slide guitar. His original songs still have the literal detail and tongue-in-cheek humor that might evoke folk music, but now Powers has a kind of dual identity, as a true guitar freak, whose playing only accentuates his soulful voice and his incisive words. Just when this latest album and its new emphasis on slide guitar was gaining its legions of new fans, the world stopped.
Once she wrote a lot of new material and felt like getting back into the studio, Powers knew she wanted Giovino to help produce it. They started working and often sending music files and adding band members remotely, the process many artists have had to go through during the pandemic. The new disc is finished and should be released this year. The best news is that Powers and his management team have deals from various labels.
‘Dream cast of characters’ on the new album
Powers said Giovino had assembled a “cast of dream characters” she could work with: Charles Giordano of the E Street Band; the McCrary sisters; Doug Lancio, who plays guitar with John Hiatt; and Luther Dickinson of the North Mississippi All Stars.
“Somebody told me a long time ago to always surround yourself with people who are better players than you, and I’ve always tried to do that,” Powers said. “We couldn’t get together for this record, so it wasn’t as personal. We all corresponded via email instead, but these people were all a pleasure to work with, and I have everything just loved the experience. We just worked with a basic trio: me, Marco on drums and Marty Ballou on bass, then we added the rest. But, we were playing in a trio, and I had the flesh of chicken – is it really MY music?
Powers did Gregg Allman’s “Please Call Home” as a duet with (American songwriter) Paul Thorn.
“Our duet looks wonderful,” she said. “I think the whole recording process gave me a whole new perspective. My last record had a lot of slide guitar, but it’s a lot more R&B and a band sound.”
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Powers delivering a Gregg Allman cover leads to another ongoing project. She’s always included a cover or two in her live sets, and the audience response is always thunderous. His European label, CRS Continental Records, has taken notice, and so there’s a 10-song covers album set to be released as well.
“On my last European tour, I did ‘The First Time I Saw Your Face’ by Roberta Flack, just an impromptu pick, and it went way overboard,” Powers said. She also covered “Can’t Find My Way Home” by Blind Faith. The covers album is set to be released in Europe this summer, she said.
Powers subscribes to the axiom that blues and soul music doesn’t just dwell on difficult times, but rather helps provide the tenacity and inspiration to overcome them.
“Whenever I’ve been through tough times, this kind of music has been one of the biggest things that got me through it,” Powers said. “That’s why I like to play it for myself and for everyone.”
See Kerri’s powers
When: 7 p.m. June 2
Or: The Spire Center, 25½ Court St., Plymouth.
Information: 508-746-4488 or spirecenter.org
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