HUNTSVILLE — We’ve got some good news and some bad news for local music fans.
Let’s start with the bad news: The third annual TrouBeliever Fest — which singers/songwriters Anna Wilson and Monty Powell founded at Snowbasin two years ago and moved to the Ogden Amphitheater last summer — will not be held in 2020. The couple say they’re taking a year off from the festival to focus all of their energies in support of their forthcoming album.
And the good news?
Wilson and Powell have an album forthcoming.
The pair, who split their time between homes in Huntsville, Utah, and Naples, Florida, front the Americana band Troubadour 77. The duo just released their first single, “American Revival,” from their upcoming sophomore album “Revolution & Redemption,” due out April 3.
Powell says that, for a songwriter, inspiration often comes in bits and pieces that you then craft into something amazing. But every once in awhile, an entire song is delivered in an “Aha!” moment.
“American Revival” was that kind of song.
“The universe doesn’t care where you are” when a song comes all at once like that, according to Powell. Indeed, he and Wilson happened to be on an airplane when “American Revival,” says Powell, “downloaded into my brain.”
“I made some notes on my iPhone … and started hearing the whole production in my head by the end of the flight,” Powell recalled. “When we got off the plane, I was excited and leaned over to Anna at baggage claim and said, ‘I’ve written this song on the flight.’”
“I was mad I wasn’t there writing it with him,” she laughed.
And why wasn’t the couple sitting together on the flight?
“We both like window seats,” Powell explained.
The new song speaks of “Hope and love hanging tough just for survival” and offers the image of the “Peace train in the rain, right on time arrival.”
Powell says the new single is very much a reaction to the current climate in the United States.
“I think it’s an acknowledgement of the really wide divide that’s in the country right now,” he said. “Also, we knew this election year was coming up, and I just wanted to talk about unity and — when I say ‘American Revival’ — bringing back the notion of kindness, of conversation, of being able to have an agreeable disagreement, of being able to respect, love and be around someone who might hold a different view.”
Powell called it the elephant in the room, the way much of our civility has “gone out the window.” In our public discourse there was at least a ramp-up period to go from “disagree” to “gets ugly,” according to Powell. But now?
“That’s really the message of the song,” Powell says. “Let’s revive that idea of respect for each other.”
Wilson says she instantly fell in love with Powell’s song. And she finds the message incredibly powerful.
“I think that ultimately the song is a call to action — even just for awareness — of anyone who hears it and gets its message of tolerance and hope and unity, and a chance of coming together again,” she said. “That’s really the spirit of the song. And I hope it resonates that we’re all in this together, so let’s revive a great community of people.”
The couple describe the single as an American song in the folk tradition.
“It’s not Hank,” Powell said. “This goes back to Woody Guthrie.”
Wilson adds that the song remembers a time when artists were the commentators on the turmoil of the day.
“The artist’s job is to mirror — and not be afraid to be a megaphone — to observe what other people are feeling,” she said. “We’re trying to take up that tradition and use music and our calling as artists to effect change.”
Powell calls “American Revival” a cornerstone for Troubadour 77’s upcoming “Revolution & Redemption” album.
“Revolution, revival, redemption. All exist in the same universe,” he said.
The recording has quite a bit of personal narrative in it — about Wilson and Powell’s artistry, their coupleship and Troubadour 77. And they say there are a lot of heavy subjects in the new album, including a cut in the great tradition of murder songs like “Mack the Knife,” “The Long Black Veil” and Neil Young’s “Down By the River.”
“Actually, there’s a double-murder song on this record,” Powell points out proudly. “Not a single murder, but a DOUBLE murder.”
Wilson says there’s even one love song on the record, a tune that suggests undertones of the American Civil War.
“It’s called ‘North and South,’ and it is about our actual personal story,” Wilson said. “I’m the girl from the north, he’s the boy from the south, and it’s about how we came from different worlds and found our way to each other.”
“There’s definitely as much redemption as revolution in this album,” Powell adds.
A music veteran of more than three decades, Powell wrote some pretty big hits with some pretty big artists over the years. Keith Urban. Lady Antebellum. Rascal Flatts. Tim McGraw. Brooks & Dunn.
Wilson has numerous songwriting credits as well, with cuts on albums by the likes of Reba McEntire, Lee Ann Womack, Chris Cagle and Billy Ray Cyrus.
With Troubadour 77, the two songwriters decided to start recording their own songs. For themselves.
“It’s a long way out of something you’ve done your whole adult life, where you’re pigeonholed into ‘You’re X’ as your identity,” Powell said. “Creating Troubadour 77 to begin with, and recording that first album (‘Selma Avenue’), it was like a jail break where we were just feeling like, ‘If we don’t do something like this, we’re going to bust.’”
This second album, “Revolution & Redemption,” is more thoughtful and artistically developed work, according to Powell.
“It’s one more step,” he says, “further away from the traditional music business and the beast that needs to be fed.”
In that way, Powell says the new record is an important new phase for the couple.
“Because anytime it’s a sophomore effort, you know it’s something you’re going to commit to long-term,” Powell said. “So for the foreseeable future, we’re going to let some things go, focus on who we are, and take this across the country.”
Right now, Wilson says they’re “knee-deep” in puzzling together the routing for a tour later this spring and over the summer — and hopefully, she says, into the fall as well. They’ll start their tour in earnest later this spring.
“We’ll enjoy these last six weeks of great skiing in Utah, then in April we’ll kick things up,” Wilson said.
And, Powell points out, no matter where they roam they’ll always come back to play in Northern Utah. And, to bring the TrouBeliever Fest back.
If you want to catch an upcoming Troubadour 77 show, they’re playing The Powder Keg at Powder Mountain on Feb. 24. Then, on March 7, they’re at Hotel RL in Salt Lake City. This summer, they’ve got shows at the DeJoria Center in Kamas and the Kimball Art Center in Park City.
“We’re always going to play around here,” Powell said. “We’re home-base folks. We’ve got shelves full of awards and Grammys and stuff, and yet we’re going to go play The Powder Keg.”
Wilson said they’re excited to get the new single and album out there, and to be performing their own shows.
“We love each other, and we just enjoy making music together,” she said.
As for Powell, any final thoughts he’d like to add? Clearly, he’s still got that whole double-murder song on his mind.
“I mean, I think the main thing I want to say is that single murder songs are for amateurs,” he quips.