Dirk Powell:
A Fret-Free Christmas


Dirk Powell:
A Fret-Free Christmas


Released in 2010

Valcour is honored to present our first Christmas album courtesy of the brilliant talent of Dirk Powell!

Dirk Powell combines deep-running roots in rural American tradition with an overarching artistic vision that speaks poignantly to the audiences of today. He has expanded on the deeply rooted sounds of his Appalachian heritage to become one of the preeminent traditional American musicians of his generation. In addition to acclaimed releases on Rounder Records, he’s recorded and performed with artists such as Loretta Lynn, playing several instruments on her Grammy-winning release “Van Lear Rose,” Sting, Jack White, Levon Helm, Jewel, T-Bone Burnett, Ralph Stanley, and Linda Ronstadt, among others.

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Sample Tracks

Dirk founded the Cajun group Balfa Toujours with his wife Christine Balfa and is currently Artistic Director of the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes. His ability to unite the essence of his culture with modern sensibilities has led to work with many of today’s greatest film directors, including Anthony Minghella, Spike Lee, Ang Lee, Victor Nuñez, Steve James, and Edward Burns.

We are happy to add Dirk to the Valcour catalog with A Fret-Free Christmas: Christmas Music on a Fretless Banjo. The album, featuring Dirk’s daughter artwork, was originally a creation for friends and family, but it was so good we just had to share it with the world. Here is a little bit from Dirk about the CD:

“Several years ago, I came home from a frantic round of Christmas shopping at the mall to find two homemade fretless banjos waiting in big boxes on my porch. They turned out to be gifts from my cousin, Alfred Sorenson, of Castlewood, Virginia. I was so moved by the generosity of Alfred’s gift that I ran into the house and recorded several Christmas carols for him on the instruments, racing back out and to the post office just in time to overnight him a cassette of the results.

My gift felt tiny compared to his, but I could tell from his reaction that he was overjoyed with the music I’d made on his instruments. Between us, it seemed we had managed to capture some part of what it means to give a gift, to pour your heart into something with focus only on the person who will receive it. There was an antidote to the frantic commercialism and social pressures that have attached themselves to the Christmas holiday in this quiet music made on hand-carved wooden banjos.

The following year I decided that one way to expand on the generosity of Alfred’s original gift would be to record an album’s worth of Christmas music on the instruments for family and friends. I titled the project ‘A Fret-Free Christmas,’ alluding to the lack of frets on the banjos, of course, but also to my hope that it would serve as a mellowing influence during holiday seasons that seemed to be growing increasingly stressful and commercial. I made several editions over the years, passing them out to those whom I thought would enjoy the music and the general spirit of the project.

After a lot of feedback encouraging me to do so, I’ve decided to make the music available to the general public.  I hope it will continue to spread the joy I felt upon receiving those wonderful banjos all those years ago. I also hope it will encourage people to take a deep breath and, perhaps, think about what gifts they might be able to create with their own hands this Christmas. If it encourages anything of that sort, I will know that the original spirit of Alfred’s gift lives on.”

-Dirk Powell