Dirk Powell has expanded on the deeply rooted sounds of his Appalachian heritage to become one of the preeminent traditional American musicians of his generation.
“Dirk’s got great subtlety, tremendous feel, and he’s very loose and very modern, in the best sense of the word.” — T-Bone Burnett
“Now that’s the kind of fiddlin’ I like, right there…” — Loretta Lynn
In addition to acclaimed releases on Rounder Records, he’s recorded and performed with artists such as Loretta Lynn (playing several instruments on her Grammy-winning release Van Lear Rose), Sting, Jack White, Levon Helm, Jewel, T-Bone Burnett, Ralph Stanley, and Linda Ronstadt. His ability to unite the essence of his culture with modern sensibilities has led to work with many of today’s greatest film directors, including Anthony Minghella, Spike Lee, Ang Lee, Victor Nuñez, Steve James, and Edward Burns. His live performances of powerful Appalachian music with The Dirk Powell Band have inspired audiences across the globe in a wide variety of venues, including such prestigious settings as the Eastman School of Music and Interlochen Academy. Dirk also selected and arranged traditional Appalachian material for Riverdance: The Show, in which he also performed on fiddle.
In his early teens, Dirk formed a musical bond with his grandfather, James Clarence Hay of Sandy Hook, Kentucky. Here Dirk discovered a personal resonance with traditions that stretch back to Scots-Irish ancestors who came to the mountains in the middle of the 18th century, and, in continuation of this line, learned banjo and fiddle firsthand. He was featured as part of “The Great High Mountain Tour,” an outgrowth of the Academy Award-winning film Cold Mountain, for which he acted on screen, arranged traditional material, and served as musical advisor and consultant. Other dramatic films featuring his performances include Ang Lee’s Ride With The Devil, Spike Lee’s Bamboozled, and Edward Burns’ The Brothers McMullen.
Dirk has scored several documentaries, including the award-winning films Stranger With a Camera, The Unfinished Civil War, and Thoughts in the Presence of Fear. He also appeared in the BBC/RTE documentary series “The Irish Empire” as an expert on the culture of early Scots-Irish immigrants to Appalachia. He recently collaborated on a fusion of Appalachian music and Hip Hop with Richmond producer/rapper Danja Mowf for the film From the Holler to the Hood, which explores tension between guards and inmates in the new maximum-security prisons in Appalachia.
In short, Dirk Powell displays a vibrant creative energy that crosses many boundaries while remaining grounded in the rural traditions of his heritage. His formal musical training, deep-running roots, and dedication to self-expression as a necessary part of life combine to make him one of the most important artists in America today.