THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “David Newbould is a lifer. 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 an adulthood often spent onstage and on the road. He turns a new page with his fourth full-length studio album Power Up!, a record whose messages of persistence and unshakeable survival are driven forward by the grease, grit, and guitar-driven swagger of rock ’n’ roll.
Recorded with producer/collaborator Scot Sax (Wanderlust) during a global pandemic that brought both musicians’ schedules to a halt, Power Up! is an album for the modern moment. These are songs about taking stock of the present, counting one’s blessings, and putting one foot in front of the other. Newbould recorded the tracks in a makeshift basement studio in Sax’s Nashville home, with the two musicians separated by a pane of glass for health’s sake. Sax played drums, bass, and other instruments, while Newbould handled lead guitar and vocal duties. They worked together as a self-contained unit, only reaching out to 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. Steadily, Power Up! took shape during six months of quarantined recording sessions.
“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 guitar solos have mistakes in them, but they have a vibe, too, so we kept them. Some drum tracks were recorded with an iPhone. We didn’t get too precious with it.”
“Fidelity is an interesting thing,” he continues. “You want your album to sound sweet, but you can get diminishing returns if you try to get more than what’s there. We were in a garage. We maxed out what we had and it felt just right to me — and honest. There are a million records out there. The only way you can connect with anyone who hears it is by being as you as you can be. 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.”
Newbould isn’t used to sitting still. Born in Toronto, he relocated to New York City as a teenager and logged time in Austin’s fertile music scene before ultimately settling in Nashville. There, he found a community that was every bit as diverse as his own history. Albums like 2013’s Tennessee shone a light on his cross-continental travels and inner journey, too, 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). On Power Up!, Newbould veers from the talking blues of Home Depot Glasses (where he pays tribute to one of his longtime influences, John Prine) to the guttural, riff-ready rock of the album’s title track. “Power Up! is partly about an old TV that wouldn’t turn on, and partly about staring down time,” he says. “These days, everything seems to take on the same level of importance.” Meanwhile, Peeler Park — named after a riverside greenway close to Newbould’s home — unfolds like an internal dialogue set to a rollicking “Steve Earle-meets-Nick Cave’s Grinderman groove,” while the rest of the album also makes room for the politically-tinged fury of Blood On My Hands, the atmospheric soundscape of The Lawn, and the optimistic, folk-rock sway of Sunrise Surprise. The result, he says, is an album that’s “dirtier-sounding than much of what I’ve put out. It feels like a garage to me. There’s not a whole lot of daylight to it.”
With a catalog of critically acclaimed releases, thousands of live performances, and placements in programs like Criminal Minds and Dawson’s Creek, David Newbould has carved his own spot in the roots-rock world. Power Up! finds him leaning into the qualities that set him apart from the pack. It’s a record that wears its homemade origins on its sleeve, while still highlighting the unique sound and carefully-constructed craft that have piloted Newbould’s career for more than a dozen years.”