Summerlyn Powers - The Hive (EP)
Alabama-born-and-raised Summerlyn Powers may be a 20-something-year-old artist, but she’s just an old soul at heart with her deep-rooted country style. Recently graduated from Nashville’s Belmont University with a degree in songwriting, this skilled writer has been involved in a music career for more than half her life, releasing her debut single, Alabama Kinda Girl, when just eleven years old. For the past dozen years, she’s wisely balanced her education with her music aspirations, releasing self-penned singles as she’s steadily built her fan base. Her voice is at times soulful, sensitive, sultry, sassy, and sizzling on this debut 5-track EP. Flowing effortlessly between melodious vocals and blistering guitars, between reflecting on past feelings and accepting new eventualities, it all feels kind of weightless—in a sense that the tracks all fall into their natural place. As a lyricist, she weighs some heavy stuff on which her heartfelt delivery brings it on home with a more light-hearted approach that is imbued with an exuberance that truly breathes a sense of discovery to songs like Always On My Mind. She conveys a sense of confidence and purpose that sweeps listeners along. Even with songs as melancholy as some of these, Summerlyn and her firecracker band (guitarist Jackson Anderson, bassist Tom Davis, drummer Cole Pomeroy, and fiddler and pianist Cole Ritter) add a certain swagger to remind us that there’s often something better around the corner.
There’s a thread of love, faith and friendship with touches of loss running through these songs. From these elements, she creates complex emotional equations—from the instantly pleasurable to the naggingly puzzling—which develop into a bigger picture than you’d expect from just an EP. Amidst the melancholy, Summerlyn appears to be trying on several different hats: Healing Like I Am evokes a Carole King-style confessional, complete with warm, throaty vocals. The show-stopping Let’s Roll closer is a rock number with gospel undertones, well suited for the arenas she is destined to play. There’s more than a hint of CCR in the twangy, bluesy guitar at work here, her blues-soaked vocals are crystalline, steam practically coming out of her ears. Even the sunnier songs come with some qualifications: Always On My Mind with a sunny, Sheryl Crow-inspired acoustic country-rock song that at first blush seems to fall into the time-honoured tradition of love songs that forsake worldly pursuits for the beloved other. Yet even these lyrics are weighted with a sense of relief.
THE HIVE shines when we hear Summerlyn Powers truly write from the heart. She spins the tale of a true-to-life recollection of childhood visits to Nana and Papa’s House, while innocence disintegrates in the cold light of a broken soul as she speaks of the emotion of a heart shattered with the loss of a much-loved grandmother to dementia. While the entire EP is worthwhile, this track alone makes the whole endeavour shine. The kind of performed grief that sucks the breath clean out of your lungs, this is one of those songs that could move the listener to tears. It also serves as a bridge to the singer’s next chapter, as she wades into more thematically complex subject matter and proves that she really is a great songwriter.