Preview or purchase Bonfire to Ash on Bandcamp
Carmen Nickerson and I first joined forces in 2010 after the release and tour of my album, How to Rob a Bank. We immediately found we had strong chemistry as both performers and songwriters. This flowed naturally into the next several years of touring and collaborations on the album Cheeseburgers and Gasoline (2012) and the full band recording, Human Kindness (2015). Both of those albums have led to this new Porter Nickerson project, Bonfire to Ash.
I am excited about this project because it represents a different direction for me musically. Through the years, the guitar has often been “the band” in my songs to some extent. I continue to enjoy writing complex rhythmic parts to fill out the role of the rhythm section in live performance. And I look forward to doing more of that in the future. However, Bonfire to Ash focuses more on our voices and the collective voice we’ve created. While the songs were all written on the guitar, its role has shifted somewhat on this project.
Carmen and I pushed each other very hard to write and record this work. The result is an album of songs that highlights our mutual desire to challenge ourselves as writers and singers, digging into the truths we have come to know through our own stories and journeys. We wanted to create some music from the point of view of two people trying to walk through the world, together and alone ‒ from the optimism of “In Bloom” to the reflective power of “Living Proof,” and the despondence and recriminations of “Echo of Love.” For us, Bonfire sketches a roadmap of human triumphs, questions, and desires.
We enlisted Grammy Winning Producer Ben Wisch (Marc Cohn, Jonatha Brooke) to record, produce, and play keys on this album with us, capturing a beautiful photograph of these songs, rendered with the kind of detail delivered by a minimalistic painter’s approach. Rounding out our rhythm section are two stage and studio veterans: drummer/producer Ben Wittman and bassist Zev Katz. Ben easily moves from Jim Keltner-like grooves to the restraint and invention of an accomplished Jazz drummer. Zev underpins these songs on upright and electric bass with smart harmonic counterpoints and rhythmic contributions. As I said, this album is a photograph; all of the songs were tracked live in the studio with very minimal overdubs. I did make the choice to add some electric guitars on a couple tracks for some swamp and sauce. The cello of our friend Mai Bloomfield (Jason Mraz, Raining Jane) is also a beautiful contribution. The great Knox Chandler, who was such a huge part of my album, Falling Forward, has returned here as well to lend his singular electric guitar to the songs “Wasting Time” & “Stay.”