The duo performs at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. Thursday at the Baton Rouge venue. The shows are a pair of one-off appearances following a late 2016 California tour.
Giddens, a fiddler, banjo player and dynamo vocalist, won a Grammy for her work with the traditional string band the Carolina Chocolate Drops. She’s currently a two-time Grammy nominee for her EP, “Factory Girl.” Her T Bone Burnett-produced solo debut, 2015’s “Tomorrow Is My Turn,” was a Grammy nominee for best folk album.
Giddens co-produced her latest album, “Freedom Highway,” with Powell at his studio in Breaux Bridge. To be released Feb. 24, it includes her inspired-by-current events original material and a title song first heard during the civil rights era, the Staple Singers’ “Freedom Highway.”
The versatile Powell’s credits include performing with Cajun band Balfa Toujours and supporting player roles with Joan Baez, Jack White, Loretta Lynn, Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle, Kris Kristofferson, Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne and Levon Helm.
Powell’s instruments include banjo, mountain and Cajun fiddle and diatonic button accordion. He’s also a singer, songwriter, producer and recording engineer.
Powell and Giddens met in 2006 when he booked the Carolina Chocolate Drops at a festival he was directing. Their paths kept crossing through the years. A T Bone Burnett-curated concert at New York City’s Town Hall in 2013, “Another Day, Another Time,” rekindled their musical connection.
“Rhiannon and I collaborate in a way that isn’t matched by anything else I've ever experienced,” Powell said. “We give the other support that allows for emotional fearlessness. It is truly unique. Beyond words, really.”
Following the onstage collaborations they revel in, making a studio album together was a natural next step for Powell and Giddens.
“We wanted to capture that energy, that fearlessness,” Powell said. “It’s not always easy to get that in the studio, but we knew it would be doable with us co-producing.”
Working with members of Giddens’ band, local musicians from Acadiana and a horn section from New York, Powell and Giddens recorded most of the “Freedom Highway” album in eight days.
“It felt like a moment, and the right moment,” Powell said. “So we dove in from that place. Our goal was to see if we could let the soul of the experience guide us, rather than trying to control it. It felt good.”
Meanwhile, the regional flavor of Acadiana seeped into the recording sessions.
“It always does,” Powell said. “There's so much music and soul in the air.”
Powell also believes the building his studio is in, which dates to 1850, influenced the music.
“I preserved the original cypress walls in the main room,” he said. “There is a feeling there. The walls absorbed a lot of stories through the years that they seem to want to tell. Plus, at the beginning and the end of the process, we went out dancing to Leroy Thomas and the Zydeco Roadrunners at a tiny club in Carencro.”
Whomever Powell works with onstage or in the studio, he strives to know when to be the ideal, most effective team player.
“Music is a beautiful thing in many ways, on many levels,” he said. “One of the gifts it offers is in figuring out how to let things flow without the ego getting in the way. Also figuring out when to lead from the front and ‘take the shot,’ or when to deliver from a supportive role.
“Sometimes the artists want you in the thick of it, creating the moment together, bringing all you have to something equal. It feels good to feel that out and add as much as possible to the art that’s being created, however that takes shape.”
Rhiannon Giddens and Dirk Powell
When: 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 19
Where: Dyson House Listening Room, 7575 Jefferson Highway, Baton Rouge
Cost: $25 online, $30 at the door