Dirk & Amelia Powell offer “a night of masterfully performed Cajun and Appalachian music hosted by two charming, and deeply likeable human beings.” It’s another blinder at Edinburgh TradFest 2023.
📍 Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
📅 6th May 2023
🕖 Running time: 1 hour
👥 Featuring: Dirk & Amelia Powell
🎂 Parental Discretion
🎭 Wheelchair Accessible Venue, Wheelchair Accessible Toilets, Audio Induction Loop
One of the most respected Americana-Folk musicians of his generation, with 4 Grammys to his name, and a decade as Joan Baez’s ‘band’, Dirk Powell has more laurels than you can shake a Banjo at. He’s not resting on them, he’s building a legacy. That legacy takes the form of Amelia Powell, daughter, and granddaughter of legendary Louisiana fiddler Dewey Balfa.
From a fiddle-blazing ‘Balfa Walz’ paired with Cajun classic ‘Mon Vieux Wagon’ the younger Powell’s talents are immediately clear. She has just the right potent, soulful voice for the job, coupled to a burning passion for the music. On the 6th May performance, Dirk’s normally perfectly serviceable vocals took a dive into Tom Waits territory thanks to arriving at the end of a gruelling – and well-enjoyed – 17 date tour. Though still game, it finally gave out through the wonderfully funny ‘8th Wonder’ leaving Amelia to fulfil all singing duties thereafter.
Fortunately, he remained otherwise hale & hearty, an arch-adept of fiddle, accordion and banjo. His instrumental skills and Amelia’s evocative voice made for a night of masterfully performed Cajun and Appalachian music hosted by two charming, and deeply likeable human beings.
The QR’s admiration only made the higher by a fantastical fondness for Spinal Tap, a reference carried through the show, not least due to a few shouted contributions from yours truly. Joyful two steps, driving jigs, and a detour through the bluesy end of the Deep South all made for a varied, thrilling musical journey. At every turn, the pair are at pains to credit their collaborators and inspirations. A wonderfully doleful rendition of Amythyst Kia’s ‘The Worst’ only struck up after expressions of admiration for this friend of the family.
The most touching moment in the set arrived, however, with ‘Jack of Diamonds’, not only due to a terrific performance from Amelia, but a small pre-song reading. Her college-admission essay, summoned by the power of the smartphone, told of her happiest moments when first singing the song with her dad in public. On the evidence of their performance together, nothing has changed.
An encore finale of Dirk’s much-performed ‘Waterbound’ had to be left to Amelia who handled it with grace, and a little inter-verse mouth coaching from dad. Warm-hearted, musical and accomplished, it was just the ego-free, uplifting ending such a wonderful concert deserved. I’d say more, but this critic was far too carried away with the joy of the experience to make too many notes.
Suffice it to say that Dirk and Amelia Powell know how their material, their history, and have all the talents needed to share that deep trove of musical treasure. You might say they have it in spades.