Luke Powers was born in Chattanooga,
TN. He attended the McCallie School where he graduate as
valedictorian and was co-captain of the wrestling team. He
received a Morehead Scholarship to the University of North Carolina
at Chapel Hill.
At a Zoas' gig Luke met
Brian Ahern, legendary producer of Emmylou Harris, Johnny Cash and
George Jones (among others). Ahern like Luke's songs and
introduced him to Tommy Spurlock, producer/musician/steel-guitar
wizard. Tommy had produced Rick Danko, David Olney and Chip
Taylor—and played with groups including The Band, Leon Russell,
Highway 101, The Derailers, Jim Lauderdale, The Deadstring Brothers,
just to name a few.
Even though they were an odd couple—a
college professor and a professional “road dawg”--Luke and Tommy
hit it off immediately, Their first project was a set of Luke's
songs sung by Sandy Madaris called Way Back Home (2002).
Nikki Rossiter of Rambles.net wrote: “The
CD contains songs that, with time and exposure, could become folk
music of tomorrow. Mike Westerfield of Sisyphustracks.com
its “well-written songs with decidedly anti-Nashville attitude.”
Luke helped Tommy with his next project
Burrito Deluxe (2004): Luke got to write songs with Mark
Collie and Earl Bud Lee ("Friends in Low Places") as well
as to work with the legendary Sneaky Pete Kleinow, steel guitar
genius and co-founder of The Flying Burrito Brothers.
In 2005 Tommy Spurlock got the idea of
writing a protest album—against the U.S. war in Iraq, George W.
Bush and the decaying state of the nation in general: Americana music
of an America gone horribly wrong. Luke had already written a number
of protest songs for the cause and came up with the name:
Kakistocracy (meaning government by the least honest or competent).
The CD, released on Austin Records, featured an all-star band dubbed
The Spicewood Seven featuring Luke and Tommy and including Jamie
Oldaker (Eric Clapton, Leon Russell), Rosie Flores, Elana James (Hot
Club of Cow Town), Brennen Leigh and Garth Hudson (of The Band). The
effort received high praise:
Kathy Coleman (about.com): “All in
all, when it comes to making music, I have to give these guys two thumbs up - when it comes to
speaking up about what's wrong, I don't have enough thumbs to give.”
Stewart Mason (AMG): “Kakistocracy
makes Steve Earle look like a milquetoast. . . . . [J]ust the sight of it will make the average
Fox News viewer's head explode, but for all of those whohave been complaining that there's no
protest music coming in response to this war like therewas to Vietnam...well, here it is.”
Luke had gotten to know Garth Hudson
over time, and the college professor and the home-grown
musicologist/musical genius became friends. They could talk about
anything from the original Harmonicats to the numerous Jump Blues
bands of the 1950s. Luke conjured Garth into recording on some his
songs which became the ground work for Picture Book (2007),
Luke's debut CD on Phoebe Claire Records.
One song “I Saw John
Kennedy Today” (which reimagines the assassination of JFK with an
unlikely twist: Kennedy's double gets killed in Dallas, allowing the
freewheeling ex-president to roam the country in a pickup truck)
received world-wide airplay and received over 50,000 mp3 downloads.
The song was also
recorded by Ralston Bowles (produced by Gurf Morlix) which won Best
Song in Michigan's “Jammie” Awards in February 2009.
Luke's songs was included on the memorial project Musicians
for Minneapolis: 57 Songs for the I-35W Bridge Disaster Relief Effort
(2008). His work was featured alongside works by Lee Scratch
Perry, George Clinton, Los Lobos, Calexico, and Bobby Bare Jr.
Luke decided to
follow up his “personal” album with a more abstract concept with
his CD Texasee (2008), also released on Phoebe Claire Records.
He told Tommy Spurlock that he wanted to make a record that
crossed Hank Williams with American modernist poet Wallace Stevens.