Mr. Powell was born at the end of 1959 in the beautiful coal mining region of south Wales to a couple of accidental parents. Not knowing what to do with him, his practical minded mother and engineer father decided to keep him fed and clothed until he could at least speak his mind. This stage was finally reached, and has proved an irritant to many ever since.
Dragged kicking and screaming (according to his therapist) to the Land of Milk and Honey at the tender age of nine, Mr. Powell probably then began his descent into an insufferable analysis of how things are and why they shouldn't be. Raised in New Hampshire, one of the "Lower 48" American states (which has less people than most cities and more rocks and lakes than most movies), he constantly threatened his own future by refusing to succeed.
Two years in some remote college in Missouri provided many better excuses not to succeed, and several opportunities to pretend to be doing what was done so much better ten to twenty years previous by much more serious drop outs and better writers. After traveling around most of the U.S.A. east of the Rocky Mountains on the cheap, and slumming around the college town for a few months, he crawled back to his adopted native haunts to try failing some more.
An iconoclastic punk, and feeble drug experimenter, Mr. Powell always somehow managed to maintain some pathetic sense of personal and physical integrity, by never taking or doing things that could result in permanent brain trauma. I suppose many people wish that he had.
Music was his passion, music and women. At least he could get music. It was usually the reason he was evicted from apartments.
There was no apparent direction, however. A series of factory jobs, terminated by scheduling difficulties and the coming Third World job drain, led to some illuminating work in the retail and restaurant industries. "Always work where they make food and you'll never be hungry for long." This, too, resembled success too much and had to be discarded. Well, truth be known, it discarded him first and he justified it for the purposes of autobiographical clarity.
For Mr. Powell in many ways the turning point was a job at a failing speaker manufacturer in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. While reminding himself and everyone else that he could still do anything he tried (or was thrust upon him) very well, he ascended through a series of increasing responsibilities as the company crashed and burned around him. Prodded by its owner to offer service and parts to the company's former customers, Mr. Powell set out upon the American Dream of self-employment.
Refusing as always to succeed, and getting better and better at rationalizing it, he slowly engineered a life style around his new found freedoms which generated a tremendous amount of free time, and a constant cash flow crisis. It was in this period that he finally paid some fine musicians to teach him the rudiments of guitar playing. Figuring that he could outsmart the game and learn enough about music theory to fake being able to really play, he (quite by accident) succeeded.
Finally empowered to provide himself with his passion on an ad hoc basis, music at the command of the current emotion and attitude, he made the mistake of trying to set one of his "poems" to music. Unfortunately, he eventually managed to hit upon a way to make this work. One last hope remained for his observers - Mr. Powell had never learned or even shown any ability to sing. Sadly, this too proved no serious obstacle. With popular musical history ranging from famous folk singers to ingrate punks, it was apparent that singing ability had little to do with the craft of live stage performance.
Now working on a full length "demo," as he calls it, of an album to be titled Ruins, Mr. Powell threatens to indulge himself and curse the rest of us with an actual opus composed of words he has strung together like the proverbial monkeys at typewriters, mumbled and murmured to the accompaniment of various confused and overwrought musical clichés from the world of pop music.
We can only hope he won't find a way to finish it.
Mr. Powell's solo "stage debut" was on August 27th, 1997, at an open mike/hoot night run by a much harder working musician. Despite Mr. Curt Bessette's intentions of producing a fine quality opportunity for aspiring folk artists to hone their skills, hacks like our protagonist seem to keep dripping out of the damp and rotting woodwork. Many years of begging to accompany indulgent performers in rehashes of the classic folk/rock repertoire made him realize the only way to be assured of playing at these events would be to commandeer the stage and present his own works.
The audience endured perhaps fifteen minutes, consisting of "Hunger," barely salvaged by the last minute drafting of Mr. Matt Halfmann on an African drum, "She Only Dances," which goes on so long it even bores the performer [ed. note: it has been renamed "jealousy," and continues to get shorter as the years go by], and "Lemonfishbutter." This last was accompanied by the intrepid and daring Mr. Ralph Chasse on rhythm guitar. Ralph had never heard the song before and probably hopes to never hear it again. (I could have changed or suppressed their names to protect them, but they should have known better, really.)
By the time of Mr. Powell's "performance" the audience consisted mostly of real musicians, who while being more likely than most to realize what an inexcusable series of biological errors must have led to this fiasco, are at least polite and understanding enough to say it went well, while offering up the mandatory applause that says "it takes nerve to get on stage and do that."
Due to their indulgent politeness, we probably have more to fear from his lips and fingers...
© Huw Powell