Sweet Treacle by Ritchie Dave Porter and Debra Susan.
Guitar and Bass – Ritchie Dave Porter
Vocals – Debra Susan
Music by Ritchie Dave Porter
Lyrics by Debra Susan
Produced and mixed by Michael Tingle 2021
Translated from the Italian website. See the original review here.
A fixture of ours in the last four years leads us to be spectators of the ever-growing artistic path of the Birmingham bluesman : Ritchie Dave Porter .
One year after his previous work ‘End Of The Line’ the English singer, composer and guitarist returns with a new album with a title that represents his artistic path: ” Fast Train Rollin ‘ “. A train that shows no sign of wanting to stop and that is always ready to overcome the different stations that it meets along its route, even the most inaccessible ones. An aptitude that led to the birth of ten new songs that quickly went on to give shape to the artist’s new record birth. A new beginning, as announced by the initial “ New Beginnings”. Ritchie’s style is well known but his Acoustic Blues and his emotional and poetic touch even where words don’t need to appear is a signature that guarantees each piece. We are well aware that what has been written up to this point may appear to be a slip-through or point to suspicions of favoritism but there is no denying the very personal style of the artist and what he manages to convey. A very simple imprint, without the need for particular moves or winks. ” Blues To The End ” is the most striking example; Blues lines that come directly from the banks to the Mississippi River , from those mysterious and evocative lands that have seen the birth of the Father of Blues, Robert Johnson; a song of absolute simplicity. More particular and with echoes reminiscent of some songs by Willy DeVille is the following ” The Girl With Red Hair “. A mix of blues and gypsy rhythms that infuse this piece with very bright colors. A romantic ballad that, however, does not let itself be enchanted by the easy melody and by the too obvious lyrics, even if the arrangement is very simple and linear. A road that continues into the next “Sarah” by creating a sort of connection between the two tracks, both musically and lyrically with softer guitar lines in the stanzas and more pronounced in the chrous, a choice that partly separates the two songs but still leaving them linked. The title track of the album leaves behind a strange aura, perhaps due to the speed with which it is played, in line with its title, leaving just enough time to notice its arrival and being invested without warning even if anticipated by a intro slow and cadenced, almost gloomy. The following ” Cold Black Heart ” and ” Loner Blues ” follow the typical canons of Acoustic Blues, without decorative frills and without external influences, while with ” Sirocco ” we witness a new incursion of Mediterranean rhythms and sounds, warm and sensual. ” Just Give Me More Days ” and ” Spirits Of The Woods ” (the only track in which the drums appear to support the rhythm of guitar and bass lines ), they close the album mixing the scanty Blues of the first with the rocking scents of the second.
An immediate album that once again confirms the spontaneity of Ritchie Dave Porter’s artistic path ; an album of pure Blues, blood and direct. No useless ceremonies, simple rhythms, guitar and voice, a barely mentioned bass and drums only when needed, few elements but incisive and devoted to the cause.
Read the review here: review
Ritchie Dave Porter is back with another slice of his unique serene calmness and emotional honesty, as he takes us on an autobiographical acoustic blues journey to the red button of the recording studio.
From calm comes clarity, the very quality that this album as a whole conveys so eloquently. It’s a trump card for the Brummy bluesman, as ‘Fast Train Rollin’ makes a significant impact by drawing the listener in with his subtle playing, a warm weathered vocal style and the afore mentioned emotional honesty that reflects his hard earned right to be here in the first place.
On ‘Blues To The End’ he stockpiles several blues cliché’s before delivering an autobiographical sting in the tail: “I’ve had the Big C, I’ll play blues to the end.”
He further looks mortality in the face with an unwavering eye, on ‘Just Give Me More Days’, as he draws on all the subtle elements of his musical canvas to convey so much in a stripped down manner.
He pens autobiographical songs, crafts enchanting instrumentals and explores different moods and feels on an album with the contrasting qualities of sparse arrangements and inspired playing.
In between the intricately woven guitar lines, lyrical imagery and evocative phrasing, there’s also a consistent melodic sweep from the opening ‘New Beginnings’ to the closing ‘Spirits Of The Wood’.
The two tracks emphasize the beginning and end of a musical journey. You could also argue that Porter’s own recording career thus far has mirrored such a linear journey, starting with 1989’s retrospective ‘Rocking The Blues’.
He disappeared from view until the mission statement of his 2015’s ‘Acoustic Blues’ CD/EP. Then in 2016, he cast himself as a ‘Working Class Blues Man’, while the big picture ‘End Of The Line ‘wasn’t so much a comment on his own career, as a definitive exposition of his style, a tautly worked balance between deep emotion, clarity of vocals – both phrasing and diction – and meaning.
Everything is neatly glued together by an array of glistening notes and lingering tones as the songs soak up lyrical meaning.
All of this brings us nicely to ‘Fast Train Rollin’, on which he further hones his simple, but effective style with narratives delivered within sparse arrangements, embroidered by some beautiful guitar playing.
In between the melodic ebb and flow, there’s some evocative guitar playing, as on ‘The Girl With Red Hair’, and the intense playing on ‘Sirocco’, on which he evokes the swirling wind of The Sahara in a dance like frenzy, before a Peter Green style drop-down.
Then there’s the fast tempo, hot picking, and highly charged playing of the title track, which suggests he’s in the groove, all revved up and ready to go.
He gets ironic on ‘Loner Blues’, a song with a lyrical shift that leads him to the conclusion that being alone might not be such a bad thing after all. But rather than develop his theme he just lets guitar do his talking for him. And it is this essence of simplicity that brings him rich reward.
He digs deep for the rumination of his own mortality on ‘Just Give Me More Days’, as he cleverly adds some sinuous Spanish guitar on the end of the exclamatory line: ‘I’m slipping away, just give me more days.’
His lightness of touch and an uplifting melodic feel also makes the closing ‘Spirits of the Wood’ a real joy, on the perfect instrumental book-end to a lovingly crafted album.
Michael Tingle’s unexpected drum-roll punctuates a sparse arrangement that imperceptibly slips into a mesmerising solo, which conjures up the song’s title.
Along with ‘Sirocco’, it’s another excellent example of the music evoking thematic imagery, as the Brummy’s delicate brushstrokes conveys so much on a beguiling album.
On first listening ‘Fast Train Rollin’ doesn’t quite have the same coherent structure of its predecessors, but repeated listens reveals some enveloping melodies, catchy licks and salient lyrics that glow like embers in the dark.
In an age of ridiculous hype, production overkill and formulaic music, ‘Fast Train Rollin’ is a delightful return to the basics of heartfelt songs, impassioned singing and great acoustic guitar playing. ****
Review by Pete Feenstra
One vote per day for the whole of February:
Vote for Ritchie here:
“It’s the delivery and sound of a story teller going back to absolute basics with just an acoustic guitar and a voice. “
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Had the please to record a new track today for the forthcoming album ‘Fast Train Rollin’ at the Lickey Hills Birmingham in The Moon and Sky Mobile Recording Studio. We recorded the whole track in situ in the woods…
Had the honour to open the John Bonham Festival in Redditch at the weekend.
RDP give it his all!
From the opening filmic feel of ‘Blues At Sunrise’ to the conceptually opposite of ‘Blues At ‘Twilight’ – two ambient blues instrumentals that top and tail Ritchie Dave Porter’s ‘End Of The Line’ – this is an album that takes us on an evocative musical journey played mainly on acoustic guitar, with one electric track.
‘Blues At Sunrise’ sets the scene for an impressionistic ride, while the closing ‘Blues At Twilight’ could almost be Roy Harper.
‘End Of The Line’ is a rootsy blues album, but Birmingham’s RDP is equally strong as a singer-songwriter and instrumentalist. What glues his versatility together is the emotional weight of his songs and more importantly the way he delivers them.
The former power trio guitarist mainly lets his acoustic guitar do most of his talking and when called on to sing, he frequently double tracks his voice to make a significant impact.
He knows the value of dynamics and the use of space and time, on an album that’s big on making his notes count rather than the amount he actually plays.
His music is a balance between the two voices of his guitar and vocal. He frequently lets a song drop down to accommodate his vocal rather than just his guitar. Sometimes they intertwine, but he often interweaves two separate but interrelated threads that usually find their way back to the same destination by the end of the song
Together with former producer Michael Tingle who contributes drums on ‘Happy Home’ – the only electric track on the album – the duo explore a sparse and rough-edged feel on a track that sounds like a one-take garage band cut.
Porter’s piercing vibrato, and live-in-the-studio feel is further amplified by a perfunctory ending with a spoof on Lennon’s famous rooftop comment from ‘Let It Be’: “I’d like to thank the group and hope we passed the audition.”
‘Dog Without A Bone’ is essentially a conceptual statement of the joy he gets from playing his preferred genre of the blues, as he adds some nifty picking to a song that ends all too quickly.
’12 Long Hours’ initially sounds mundane, but it’s a true story about clocking in the hours at his day job. When he adds a few choice guitar flurries you can’t but help be drawn in by his clock watching as he pines for his guitar.
The exclamatory titled ’Hell Yeah Man I Got The Blues’ is a new take on familiar subject matter, on a blues song about work and feeling down, which he neatly embroiders with some catchy acoustic riffs. He’s deep in depair when he sings: “Got no job, no dog, no lover”, but he settles on the sentiment that: “It’s the blues that keeps me strong.”
‘Let Me Tell You About The Blues’ is another song full of genuine emotion, lovely finger work and a warm vocal that emotes his inner feelings.
It’s on this track that RDP nails his oeuvre. He does so by letting his double tracked acoustic resonate, so that when his voice fills the space left by the guitar, it makes the kind of emotional impact that leaves the listener wanting more.
‘My Father’ further emphasizes the natural flow of the album, on a song about the loss of his dad. In sharp contrast, the almost gypsy jazz feel of ‘Baby Why You Treat Me So Bad’ makes good use of some old school repetition of the opening lines for maximum effect.
You can see why ‘End Of The Line’ made it as the title cut, as his voice, guitar and the arrangement are perfect. There’s real feel, deep emotion, great playing and that ever present dynamic. And when he shouts out; “let me play my guitar”, he restricts himself to the briefest solos before calling a halt to a mesmerizing track.
While there are plenty of technically excellent acoustic blues practitioners out there, RDP combines his own estimable chops with real feel and the ability to mirror a lyric with a single guitar line. He builds the track, delivers the line and let’s it hover, float and then gently descend, before resolving the song and moving on to a different but related piece of music.
In many ways ‘End Of The Line’ is a misleading title as it’s an album with a bigger picture that draws on the emotive base of acoustic blues to share everyday feelings.
RDP is contemporary blues artist with old school values that he channels into songs that resonate. Acoustic roots never sound so fresh and immediate. ****
Ritchie Dave Porter – ‘End of the Line’
Release date: 1st March 2018
I like Ritchie Dave Porter!
These days, many artists seem to strive for the next best thing, trying to stretch themselves too far, with ambitions beyond their current hemisphere. The problem is, that ambition might as well be in the next galaxy, because they just ain’t going to get there when they don’t have what it takes to get lift off.
This ‘working class bluesman’ is more honest with himself, and that’s what I like about his music – he sticks to what’s in his heart and in his bones. And why does he do this? Because he sings the blues and he’s pretty darn good at it!
I’ve never met Ritchie, but have got to know him a little through the powers of the internet, and the lyrics he writes seem to come directly from what’s happening in his life. When he sings “I can make it alone, because I sing the blues” on ‘Dog Without a Bone’ he also teaches us that he can do double meanings as well as anyone. The lyrics on this and a number of Ritchie’s songs leave listeners in no doubt that he has an eventful and never smooth love life, and here he tells it like it is – singing the blues gets him through.
So where’s the double meaning, you might ask. Well, I thought that the song might also relate to his musical ambitions. I’ve wondered why Ritchie’s doesn’t have a band, but he’s obviously convinced that he can make it on his own, and with talent like his, it’s hard to argue with him. But….
….and in the middle of this otherwise exclusively acoustic album, we get the one track where he plays electric guitar, something I for one would like to hear more of (the mirror image, with just one acoustic track, for the next album perhaps?). ‘Happy Home’ ends suddenly when someone pulls the plug and tells him he passed the audition to join their band. It’s a neat trick to get the hard-edged blues-rock track onto the album. It also suggests that maybe Ritchie craves to lead a band?
Then again, the very next number, ‘Let Me Tell You About The Blues’, demonstrates exactly why there’s no need for him to change. There’s some absolutely beautiful string work on this track. Many of Ritchie’s songs follow a traditional blues structure. However, he demonstrates his versatility and excellent musicianship in songs like this, which I’d pick out as my favourite track on the album. There’s a problem here though – it’s only three minutes long, and I could have listened to much more of that guitar playing.
The following track, ‘My Father’, is another individually styled and structured song, with some lovely riffs right though the number. The title track on the album, ‘End of the Line’ also has a few sumptuous solos. It starts with some beautiful simple, almost bass, notes that vaguely reminded me of an equally brilliant track called ‘Closer’ by Nikki Loy, on her album ‘Pivotal’. Ritchie sings “I was searching for love, but I need to find peace, I was looking for love, but love’s a broken dream…just let me play my guitar!” – and there you have it…he found his number one love, and he has it in his hands, making beautiful sounds!
The contrast between these and the more conventionally styled blues numbers really is a feature of this album. It’s a very well balanced collection of songs stripped bare – just vocals and a guitar. Two intricate and hugely enjoyable instrumentals, which are as much akin to classical guitar playing as blues, provide the bookends to this library of songs from the heart. They really are top quality, and demonstrate that Ritchie Dave Porter has tremendous skill in those fingers of his, and he deserves great credit for this collection of work.