Powder Mill: Do Not Go Gently

By: Dennis Cook

We may be looking at the next great Southern rock outfit. And like their forebears who aren’t just dime store, rebel flag decal wearing copyists, Powder Mill digs their nails into the earthy substance of the American South, capturing the heat and home cooking, the roughhewn history and intrinsically defiant spirit, the plainspoken directness and the gnarled, deep rooted complexities…and then serve it up with befuzzed guitars, growling vocals, undisguised country accents and a crushing backbeat.

“It doesn’t matter how you sleep at night just as long as you can get through your day,” snarls bandleader-singer-guitarist Jesse Charles Hammock II on opener “Runnin’ People Down,” which vibrates with the rare, don’t-give-a-damn-’bout-modern radio toughness that’d bring a shit eating grin to Mike Cooley, Patterson Hood and the rest of the Truckers, especially because it’s not just a facsimile of what Drive-By is doing. Powder Mill is dirt-poor real in their own way, pulling teeth with fishing pliers, cookin’ corn in the hills and looking for truth in the wind. This is a band (and music) that’ll fight till the last note fades, a sort of “you can have my electric guitar when you pry it from my cold dead fingers” kinda thing. Combine that tenacity and pleasant cantankerousness with a sonic variety and knack for cool spot instrumentation and shifting moods that compares favorably with under-sung fellow Missouri greats the Ozark Mountain Daredevils. Like that semi-forgotten Southern classic, Powder Mill can take it down, nuzzle in close and whisper about love and desperation in a way that cracks your heart but just as credibly turn it up to ’11’ and bark, “You can bet your suit and tie I’m gonna get some fuckin’ closure!”

Do Not Go Gently (released June 2) jumps into your lap with a cold beer and a wicked grin and just keeps getting better as it wiggles the blue off your jeans. Different sections will hit you harder on different days, where the tough-minded opening section hits your sweet spot on pissed off, hating the boss days but the thoughtful, fiddle dappled simmer of “Wet Moons” or “Lonesome Mama” feed your wistful workingman’s soul in the wee-wee hours. Regardless of personal mood, the sheer togetherness and raw talent of this band is just a pure fuckin’ pleasure. Lead guitarist Jeff Chapman is, to borrow a line from Almost Famous, incendiary. Some dudes roll by their chops (and Chapman’s got those) but six-stringers that strut by feel are often soooo much more satisfying, and Chapman has the touch of an old blind man feeling up college coeds. Plant the whole rockin’ mess atop the equally hip-shakin’ rhythm section of Pat McSpadden (bass) and Andrew Bedell (drums) and you fast begin to get this review’s opening salvo.

Powder Mill is already terrific. Only two albums in and they’ve begun to carve out an identity for themselves that honors but never apes the legacies of Widespread Panic, Mofro, the Allmans, Marshall Tucker Band and other below-the-Mason-Dixon groups that rose above the clichés while savoring their culture. Do Not Go Gently shows a band deadly serious about blasting some big holes in rock’s plump hindquarters, and trust me, their powder is dry and their aim is true.

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