David Newbould finds his musical calling deep inside his road-weary soul. Since kickstarting his career with 2007's Big Red Sun, he's made his mark as a heartland roots-rocker, Americana artist, and amplified folksinger, writing songs that chart the ups and downs of a traveling adulthood spent mostly onstage. His fourth full-length studio album, Power Up!, is to be released June 10 on Blackbird Record Label. Soaked in the grease, grit, and guitar-driven swagger of rock ‘n’ roll, Power Up! underscores passionate messages of persistence and unshakeable survival.
Recorded with producer-collaborator Scot Sax (Wanderlust) during a global pandemic that brought both musicians' schedules to a halt, Power Up! is an album firmly planted in the now. These are songs about taking stock of the present, counting one's blessings, and walking with a steady heart. Newbould recorded the tracks in a makeshift basement studio in Sax's Nashville home, the two musicians separated by a pane of glass for health's sake. While Newbould handled guitars and vocals, Sax played drums and bass, and they shared extraneous instrument duties. They worked together as a self-contained unit, only reaching out to a few friends like Newbould's live band and Americana Music Award-winning violinist Kristin Weber (who contributed to the album's cover of Crystal Gayle's "Ready for the Times to Get Better") for guest appearances.
Choice cuts on Power Up! include the disc’s first three singles: "Home Depot Glasses,”, this first, is a talking blues gem where Newbould pays tribute to the late, great John Prine, which will be released (along with a music video) April 8. The propulsive title track, out May 6 (also with video), is one of those guttural riff-ready rockers that immediately gets the heart pumping. It may have been informed by an old TV set that wouldn’t turn on, but it ultimately speaks to staring down the forces of time. And then there’s “Peeler Park,” named after a riverside greenway close to Newbould's home, which unfolds like an internal dialogue set to a rollicking Steve Earle-meets-Nick Cave Grinderman-era groove. That one, and accompanying video, drops June 3.
"We both love albums from the 1970s, when artists had total freedom in the studio and were pushing boundaries, experimenting with sounds, and having fun," says Newbould. "That's the vibe we achieved with this album, too. It's a basement rock ‘n’ roll record. Some parts and solos have mistakes in them, but they have a vibe, too, so we kept them. A few drum tracks were recorded with an iPhone. We didn't get too precious with it.”
Newbould’s bohemian studio philosophy fits perfectly with his pilgriming history. Born in Toronto, he relocated to New York City as a teenager and spent time in Austin's fertile music scene before settling in Nashville. There, he found a community that was as creatively diverse as his own muse. Albums like 2013's Tennessee shone a light on his cross-continental travels and inner journey, while 2019's Sin & Redemption found him fronting an A-list studio band whose members included drummer Brad Pemberton (Steve Earle, Ryan Adams) and rock legend Dan Baird (Georgia Satellites).
It's no wonder that Power Up! is as unapologetically original as the man who created it. Newbould’s catalog of critically acclaimed releases, thousands of live performances, and placements in programs like Criminal Minds and Dawson's Creek helped him carve a spot in the roots-rock world. Power Up! showcases the home-brewed sound that’s kept him there for more than a dozen years.
“There are a million records out there,” he says. “The only way you can really connect with anyone who hears it is by being as you as you can be. In this instance, we were just doing what we had to do to make an album during a crazy time, between homeschooling our kids, supporting our wives, and keeping ourselves from going crazy."