Michael Powers Prodigal Son

The second CD from the North Carolina-based singer/guitarist bills him as a bluesman. This designation seems based solely on Powers being of African American heritage, not what’s actually heard on this recording of funk, rock, gospel and folk with, yes, a few blues-based songs. Powers shares the dilemma experienced by one of his inspirations, Arthur Lee of Love, who 40 years ago in psychedelic San Francisco found it difficult to find acceptance as a rock musician. Powers’ inclusion of Lee’s "Signed D.C.,” replete with vintage mellotron atmospherics, is one of the CD’s highlights. All the covers have connections to the ’60s and ’70s, including a radical reworking of Jimi Hendrix’s "Voodoo Chile” as an acoustic lament and a flat out rocking version of "Train Kept A Rollin’” that has more in common with the Yardbirds than Tiny Bradshaw. Rev. Gary Davis’s "You Got to Go Down,” a mainstay of the NYC Greenwich Village scene, is presented as a country hoedown, while Bob Dylan’s "Every Grain of Sand” goes to church. And for the blues, Jimmy Reed’s "Oh John” is updated, with Powers summoning a wickedly dirty guitar tone. Of the six originals, the title track is remarkable both in terms of its musical setting and wistful lyrics — Dave Alvin or Alejandro Escovedo would be at home covering this song. "Compassion,” an acoustic instrumental, could sit happily alongside Led Zeppelin’s "Black Mountain Side.” Diverse and original, Prodigal Son deserves to be heard beyond the blues ghetto. (Baryon)