Review: Willy Porter – Human Kindness

Posted on: Thursday, Oct 15, 2015


Willy Porter – Human Kindness

(Weasel Records CD: WSL1401)

Little in the way of the blues here but a big hat tip to the good folks at Weasel for realising we would have the good taste to appreciate it! For this is a marvellous record, multi-faceted, cliché-free with a truly beguiling feelgood factor.

Wisconsin guitar man Porter is on a crusade to explore and celebrate the spirit and power of human kindness which, as the title track reminds us, “is alive and well.” Here strings added the perfect accompaniment to acoustic guitar runs and percussion as the whole job builds up gently, in harmony with the song’s simple and heartwarming message. Throughout the whole album, well-judged percussion and guitar interplay help push the songs into expansive territory, creating patterns which can fold the listener in.

‘Chippewa Boots’ kicks things off with bright and breezy whistling soon succeeded by smooth organ which ends this triumphantly upbeat song of love and loss with a quieter, almost ethereal gentle finale. ‘Constellation’ has a softly-spoken delivery alongside delicate piano (Dave Adler again) before building up to Porter’s cascading electric guitar which almost sees this in power-pop territory or at least the late-90s Americana brand, where the likes of Josh Rouse and Pernice Brothers first found their melodies among lush surroundings.

‘A Love Like This’ is bouncy, soul-pop with horns, a nicely contrasting, earthier, vocal from Carmen Nickerson and a driving middle section before blistering tenor sax from Aaron Gardner. ‘Freedom’ is rockier with supporting organ, driving drums and chunky guitar before ‘This Train’ pulls away slowly, rolling on with organ and well-paced horns before a neat solo is slapped on (guest guitarist Anders Drerup?) and more super sax.

The ensemble rocks out again with the poppier ‘My Bird Can Sing’, which features a splendid scattergun guitar solo, and the quieter ‘Try To Forget’ which includes Jethro Tull’s Martin Barre on guitar and pedal steel from William Dillon and, again, wouldn’t be out of place on a modern-pop compilation.

Finale ‘Roses In The Rain’ has a percussive underlay, gentle finger-picking and fiddle to the fore (Randy Sabien) with a rootsy feel that almost veers into Paul Simon territory.

Porter is currently on a solo UK tour where his considerable talent will no doubt be finding satisfactory ways of overcoming the absence of the wonderfully full arrangements which help make this such a fine release.


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