Love Is Why
New England singer-songwriter Kerri Powers returns with her first album since 2018 with Love Is Why, songs written during the pandemic and steeped in loss and grieving when Powers was processing the loss of her father, with whom she was very close. So, the writing process was cathartic and illuminating as Powers realized the power and importance of love’s ability to heal and chip away at grief. Drummer Marco Giovino, an astute singer-songwriter and blues producer was at the helm tapping a first-rate group of musicians for these sessions. Seriously, it would be nearly impossible to bring a more stellar cast into the studio. Powers plays acoustic and electric guitars as well as keyboards aside a core band of guitarist Doug Lancio, Brother Paul Brown (The Waterboys) on keyboards, with Marty Ballou on bass and Giovino on drums. Select spots come from slide guitarists Bo Ramsey and Luther Dickinson. guitarists Kevin Holly and John Putnam., Charles Giordano (E-Street Band) on accordion, Asa Brosius on pedal steel, Regina and Anne McCrary on background vocals and Paul Thorn duetting on Gregg Allman’s “Please Call Home.”
The album just screams blues and soul, especially the first half. The opener “Rosie Blue” is soft, warm soul bathed in Brother Paul’s B3 with Powers aching vocal demonstrating impressive range as she keeps reaching higher. The title track is a mid-tempo rocker, with her powerhouse vocals attesting to mightily to the impact of love in a bluesy-soul groove steeped with swirling B3 and slicing slide guitar. The stomping “Morning Glory, Midnight Blue” is as far from New England as one gets with its North Mississippi Hill Country vibe. On the other hand, the Dylan-esque “When It Rains” sounds as if it comes straight out of the bard’s gospel period. She is struggling to love someone who is never happy or may be plagued with chronic pain –“I washed the mud off my boots and knocked on your door. You slipped the lock and said don’t come see me no more.” And the cinching line – “Love can’t take bloom in a place where it rains every day.” Lancio unleashes a searing guitar solo.
Sonics soften for “Wind and Spirits” as Powers displays the nuances of her poignant vocals in this pedal steel drenched tune. Her call-and-response with the McCrary Sisters in “Rummage Through My Love” is rousing and riveting, driven by Holly’s pulsating guitar. The one cover is Gregg Allman’s “Please Call Home” from ABB’s Idlewild South. The original may indeed be bluesier but credit to Powers and her team for a markedly different arrangement and a different spin on the tune by having Paul Thorn duet with Powers and Dickinson adding his singular touch to the guitar break. The balance of the album alternates deeper emotive ballad and hymn-like fare such as “Presence of the Faithful” and “Someone Else’s Prayer” with blues-based rouser “Rusted Bell” and the closer, the emphatic Powers’ piano driven “Are We Free.”
The album should receive considerable play on Americana oriented stations but will likely not grace many blues shows, which today seem to increasingly underserve female voices. Powers’ songs belong there too. She is as heartfelt as any. She has delivered one of this year’s most potently emotional efforts.
- Jim Hynes
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