Shortly after his debut release, 2011’s Thanks for the Broken Heart, Jayess, Mississippi singer/songwriter Cole Powell received international attention with critics from home, Canada and Britain giving the album more than favorable reviews. Indie Music Review awarded the album 4/5 STARS saying, “Turn it on, turn it up and let the music soothe your soul.” They also chose the lead track "Stay (Begging You)" for their best of indie compilation album Indie Overdose.
The concept behind Powell’s latest full length Unfiltered involved recording five previously unreleased tracks from his catalog and pairing them with five re-recorded tracks from Thanks for the Broken Heart that Powell thought “would be interesting to take in a different direction.”
Like any indie solo artist who has control over the recording of their record Cole Powell has let the volume of his vocal tracks overtake the instrumentation. On later tracks on Unfiltered, especially the hard hitting “Happenstance”, the highlighted vocals feel right. However earlier tracks seem to suffer from this common mistake, which is frequently made amongst the self-releasing solo artist crowd. Whether or not vanity is involved is hard to tell, though it merits mentioning here only because the fine instrumentation on Unfiltered is sometimes unfortunately forced to take a back seat.
Unfiltered opens with the alt country rocker “Ballad of a Bad Man (feat. Sam Mooney),” which gains a bouncy and psychedelic dynamic with peels of pipe organ. On the light folk rock ballad, “Company (feat. Brittany D and Sam Mooney)” Powell literally has company. His company here is company one wishes would have visited more often on Unfiltered most especially the beautiful vocals lent by Brittany D, who helps to give “Company” its radio friendly feel.
“Always Ever Be” is a straightforward and rambling country rock tune complete with zydeco-styled harmonica and lovely vocal harmonies. “Just for Fun” starts as a piano ballad and builds into an electric guitar fueled jam session, which paves the way for the confessional “Stay” unarguably Unfiltered’s best track; it pairs bluesy guitar with rollicking piano. Here Powell’s vocals sound more crisp and confident than anywhere else on Unfiltered.
There is a strong contrast between the first half of Unfiltered and the latter, with the latter sounding much more polished, which shows that Cole Powell is growing as an artist. And if he continues to grow his songwriting skills further, Powell just may be filtered out of the crowd and end up in the spotlight.
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