Album Review: Porter Nickerson Bonfire to Ash

By Maurice Hope, Flyin Shoes Review

www.willyporter.bandcamp.com

Porter Nickerson is duo of Milwaukee-based Willy Porter (lead, backing vocals, acoustic, electric guitar) and Carmen Nickerson (lead, backing vocals, percussion). Specializing in stylish lead vocals and eloquent harmony vocals their music in the main is warm, gentle and caressing.

A mixture of the remnants of America’s 1960-1970 California sound coupled with blues (from Porter’s picking style) not adverse to a little Americana folk blues is a base they work round. While their seamless harmonies are first class it is the lyrical content of some of the songs that really turned my head. Among the best efforts you have the finely crafted “Living Proof” and “Echo Of Love”; especially strong when instrumental support in minimal and the listener is left with little but the beauty of the human voice.

After some low-key fare Porter lifts the mood with an instalment of more urgent guitar picking on “In Bloom”, and it doesn’t stop there as their vocals are likewise well fuelled. As already noted the lyrical content of the songs is superb. Intelligent and of a kind that draw the listener to them and in the form of “Loving On Her Mind”, the well documented observation of a girl searching out a possible date along the bar is a fine effort.

Produced by Ben Wisch (acoustic, electric piano, organ and harmonium) the record also has Zev Katz (acoustic, electric bass) and Ben Wittman (drums) lend support. With Porter and Nickerson both superb vocalists the listener gets to enjoy a beautiful set of work, although I could claim a couple of songs tend to merge but that would be splitting hairs. As for the opening and closing tracks a better pair you could not wish for; the sparkling “Old Red Barn” is action packed and the playing real classy. “Sign” has a grittier feel as they close the album in great style, it also has some nice piano work as they express their belief of one another. The earthy texture of the playing and Porter’s lead is akin to something the late Bap Kennedy might have done, and been proud of his work! Enough and more for you to be eager to catch them live.

-Maurice Hope

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