Robert M. Powell’s soulful, smart solo project, ‘Everett Tree’
By Paul Liberatore, Marin Independent Journal
Posted: 04/20/17, 12:07 PM PDT | Updated: 14 hrs ago
This week: “Everett Tree,” Robert M. Powell, robertmpowell.com, CD Baby, $4.99 download, $7 CD.
Robert M. Powell is a sought-after producer and sideman, a multi-instrumentalist who has played with a host of Bay Area musicians and bands, including Shana Morrison and Kevin Brennan and Claddagh. On his new EP, “Everett Tree,” he shows that he’s a first-class singer-songwriter in his own right with this collection of five thoughtful, beautifully crafted tunes.
Powell delves into creation, healing and the grace of the peacemaker on “Scrap Pile in the Sky,” co-written with his brother, Eric Powell, who penned the lyrics. It opens with acoustic and slide guitars under Powell’s soulful baritone and builds to a crescendo before returning to the simplicity of guitar and voice at the end. Susie Davis adds some tasteful keyboard and Jim Dean’s pie pans evoke the song’s heavenly scrap pile.
“We’ve got a little grace, we’ve got a lot of guile,” Powell sings. “We must have come from the old scrap pile.” Those are the kind of intelligent lyrics that are rare in pop/rock, coming from a place that is real and genuine.
“Souls Wait in Line” continues the spiritual theme with a compelling melody punctuated by Mark McCartney’s steady pounding drums and percussion. And “Primal Call” is another gorgeous tune featuring the crying country sound of Robert Powell’s pedal steel guitar. Again, Eric Powell’s lyrics lift this tune above the ordinary with lines like “they cannot shoot, they cannot fall in the wayward remains of the heart’s primal call.”
“Everett Tree” is what Powell calls his original song project in a band context. He usually produces other singer-songwriters, bands and soundtracks in his Underbelly Studio in Fairfax. “Everett Tree” was recorded there and at the Mu Shu Palace in San Anselmo with help in mixing and other musical matters from Dean, a Grammy-winning producer and engineer.
The EP is so smart and musically sophisticated that it cries out for Powell to produce himself more often. How about a full album next time?