|Art by Pearl Rachinsky Moreland
by Matthew Martin
This one was honestly kind of tough. It's such a gut-wrenching album. And, I feel I don't have the words to properly articulate the feelings Don't Go Baby It's Gonna Get Weird Without You gave me.
For those of you who don't know, Chris Porter, longtime musician and by all accounts good dude, along with his bass player Mitchell Vanderburg passed away after a traffic incident on the way to a show in Baltimore, MD. Their drummer survived the crash. This happened exactly one year ago from Thursday (October 19, 2016).
Porter and his bandmates, the Bluebonnet Rattlesnakes, were working with Will Johnson (of Centro-matic fame) on recording Porter's follow-up to his stellar 2015 release, This Red Mountain. Unfortunately, Chris and Mitchell would not see the release of this album, but - a credit to the likability of Porter - many got together to ensure this album was finished and would see the light of day. That day is Friday, October 20, 2017.
One of my favorite Porter projects is the Porter and The Pollies EP from a few years ago. It was rollicking, fun-loving, and just a loose affair. It really showed off Porter's skills as a songwriter and a bandleader. This Red Mountain focused more on the songwriting than the rocking and rolling, documenting a tumultuous time in Porter's life when he moved to Austin, TX.
In 2016, talk began circulating of a new album Porter was working on with a crackerjack band and producer. I got incredibly excited, hoping that the album would continue to grow the talented Porter's popularity. Tragically, as I mentioned, Porter would never see that album released. However, I was right in my hopes. This is the album that would have hopefully, at least in a just world, sent Porter on a trajectory of playing larger venues, at the very least, and it is an absolute masterpiece of an album; the final puzzle piece of Porter's career.
Every song leaves a mark, with a gut-punch lyric that seems foreboding in retrospect. There are moments that careen almost off the rails, but are held together by a thin thread, and it's truly magical to hear. "Your Hometown" is a perfect example of this careening. It's a rocker that happens to be one of my favorite Porter songs. To me, a great song is one that seems it was written either specifically for, or about you/your life. And this song hits every note for me. Small, rural, Southern town living...I'm a long way from that now, but damn this song takes me back there with every listen.
This is an album full of heart-breaking songs about, presumably, Porter, his relationships, and the past. There are songs dealing with tragedy, and those are some of the hardest to listen to. When you hear "Shit Got Dark", it's hard to get through... But, it's also a song played and sung with sheer defiance. Yeah, shit got dark, but maybe there's enough stubborn attitude in us to not let that be the end of the story.
As far as final albums go, this one is crushing to me because it's absolutely Chris Porter's best and most fully realized album. The promise the album shows was taken from us last year, and that deserved recognition Porter was always riding towards, always just out of reach, will sadly never be reached.
Credit the musicians on this album as well - an Americana who's who featuring John Calvin Abney, Shonna Tucker, Will Johnson, and The Mastersons. Everyone involved in this project worked incredibly hard to get this album out and I have to believe Porter would be incredibly happy and satisfied with the final product.
To close this out, remember that we love these artists for the release they give us. The way they make us forget our problems, or let us wallow in them knowing we aren't alone. We forget that they are real people at times. People with darkness and light, ebbs and flows. People with flaws and imperfections. They work hard for us- to show us that we aren't alone. So, please, when a band comes through, go see them. Support them. Buy all of their albums. Keep them going.
To Chris Porter, who I never met, I will quote one song I have a hard time making it through still ("Go On And Leave Me"):
"Hope you find a spot where the lights are hot and draw a crowd..."
Don't Go Baby It's Gonna Get Weird Without You is available tomorrow on Amazon, Cornelius Chapel, etc.