Atlanta blues musician Shelton Powe carries on tradition playing guitar, harmonica, mouth harp and 'rhythm bones'

Atlanta-based musician Shelton Powe (AKA 'Kotton Powe') describes his music as traditional black folk music/gospel/blues. (Courtesy of Tim Duffy)

On City Lights’ series “Speaking of Music,” local musicians share work and stories in their own voices. This edition takes a listen to the work of Shelton Powe, also known as “Kotton Powe,” an Atlantan blues and folk musician. An adept Delta blues-style acoustic guitar player, Powe also keeps traditional instrumentation alive with his skills in blues harmonica, mouth harp, and bones – or “rhythm bones,” a musical cousin to the spoons or washboard common in bluegrass and zydeco.

Powe’s talent comes after a line of family musicians. “I have many aunts and uncles on my dad’s side of the family who were singers and musicians in the church, and rhythm and blues artists. My mom and my sister also would sing in church,” he said. “I basically got started through the church, through my family. I would say that gospel music is basically my roots, my foundation.” Powe’s love for spirituals and gospel-focused blues extends to his listening, and he described how that music “gives me flashbacks, these days, of being with my family or hearing them in the church.” Powe added, “It really is a pleasure to hear that still being sung today.”

Featured track “Amtrak Train” sounds like it could easily have been lifted out of a dusty record bin of early 20th century folkloric Southern recording relics, but for the fidelity of the sound. Powe shines on his acoustic guitar, underscoring his storytelling with the blues’ distinctive hammer technique. More music by Shelton Powe can be found at