Shelton Powe & Pat “Mother Blues” Cohen at Freight Train Blues


Carrboro Town Commons

Date & Time

June 23, 2023 — June 23, 2023
6:30 pm — 8:30 pm EST

Shelton Powe plays in the Piedmont finger-style guitar tradition of his parents and elders, but it took him a long time to get back to that music. Powe was born in 1957 in Charlotte, N.C., into a family of gifted instrumentalists, singers and dancers. His mother gave him harmonicas and guitars at Christmas, hoping to awaken a dormant musical aptitude, to no avail.

It wasn’t until the deaths of his mother and father in the late 1980s that Shelton became reacquainted with the rhythms and melodies of the old songs his parents used to sing. Picking up the guitar as a tribute to his deceased mother, Shelton set out to learn old-time blues and gospel the way he remembered it from his childhood. Living in Georgia, he immersed himself in the blues scene of Atlanta and soon found what he was looking for. Today, listening to him play and sing, you find yourself back at the wellspring of the Carolina Blues tradition. 

Pat “Mother Blues” Cohen shares the mettle, pathos and ocean-deep compassion of the blues singers she idolizes — Billie Holiday, Koko Taylor and Etta James. Despite losing her home twice, she keeps taking her talent and heart to the world. Pat’s performances have always unfurled the tapestry of her life experiences to her audience in soulful words and music. That compassion began to flow from Pat in brand new ways during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. As her scheduled gigs disappeared, she began playing one-woman shows at nursing homes. She even made phone calls to individual people and sang to them. These works of compassion wound up making her the subject of touching stories on PBS Newshour and in Rolling Stone Magazine.