Powers / Rolin Duo “Strange Fortune”

Some mornings when I wake up, the whole house is still and everyone else is still asleep. On my less frantic days, I’ll just lie in bed, thinking about the day ahead and trying to set positive intentions. Usually, I’m awake before dawn, so I’ll watch as the window begins to softly glow, welcoming the sun back to Earth. These small rituals are the signposts that get us through life and help fill the gaps between the big moments. When the brilliant Strange Fortune cracks open its eyes with “Birdhouse,” it’s that moment amplified.

Jen Powers and Matthew Rolin take those daily rituals and turn them into big moments. Strange Fortune is a masterpiece that echoes the unbound love and respect these two have for each other. In the radiating resonance from Powers’ dulcimer and Rolin’s 12-string, light forms and encases everything in a warm embrace. There’s barely any separation between their individual sounds as it all becomes a harmonious beacon, brined in the astral affections that light the cosmos. 

Multitudes of emotion exist throughout Strange Fortune; sonic landscapes rise and fall like empires made from ash and dust. There’s tension and anticipation woven throughout “Tea Lights,” Powers and Rolin each taking their turn at the front of the chase, driving past the cliffside and into something that feels and sounds timeless. It’s a stunning, evocative piece of music. 

I can’t write about Strange Fortune without touching on the sidelong opus, “Amaranth.” As strong as the A-Side is, the narrative sprawl of “Amaranth” is something else. Maze-like passages conjure spirits that tell tales of past lives lived in gilded splendor, loves lost, and battles hard-won. “Amaranth” is the story of a life well-lived and well-loved, the details and quiet interludes leaving the darkest marks all recorded in the steel-stringed grace of hammered dulcimer and guitar.  

Powers and Rolin are in rarified air right now, dialed in so tight that every move they make goes supernova. They’ve made some great records, but Strange Fortune is on another level. Their compositional style draws from a lot of places but is ultimately, singularly their own. Their work is approachable yet deep, a reflection of their personalities and relationship. Sometimes something or someone(s) come along and there’s a specialness that’s hard to articulate. That is the combined force of Powers and Rolin. They’re incredible, sure, but together they are worlds greater than the sum of those parts. We should all be so lucky to have Strange Fortune as the soundtrack to our lives.

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