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Powell St. John

On My Way to Houston

(Tompkins Square; US: 21 Jul 2009; UK: 29 Jul 2009)

Powell St. John may not be a young man, but he has enough energy to run with the young guns on On My Way to Houston. Each song displays a far-reaching knowledge of American music history. Through his knowledge and devotion, he taps into the blues, rock, and folk traditions. Luckily for the listener, this isn’t merely some dry history lesson. The songs are braced with melody and boundless energy, and his voice is warm with wisdom. There’s the barn-rattling rock of “Hardest Working Man”, the bluesy chug of the title track, and the gentle country feel of songs like “Jerry Lightfoot” and “Ballad of Travis Rivers”. You hear each song as a distinct and separate branch growing off the same sturdy, old trunk. On My Way to Houston is the sound of a man who knows the American musical tradition and enjoys contributing to it.

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Matthew Fiander is a music critic for PopMatters and Prefix Magazine. He also writes fiction and his work has appeared in The Yalobusha Review. He received his M.F.A. in Creative Writing from UNC-Greensboro and currently teaches writing and literature at High Point University in High Point, NC. You can follow him on Twitter at @mattfiander.


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