Ritchie Dave Porter is a well-established and respected UK blues guitarist who has a number of notable blues-based solo albums to his credit. We can namecheck “Rocking the Blues” (2014), “Acoustic Blues” (2015), “Working Class Bluesman” (2016), and “Fast Train Rollin” (2019). However, his last album saw him team up with Debra Susan, a singer with a musical theatre and opera background, and their 2022 album, “The Story So Far,” was well reviewed by Stevie Ritson for us here at Rock the Joint Magazine. Working with Debra infused the album with new vibes and was successful, achieving plaudits within the blues community and support as far afield as Australia. It was time to sit down with Dave and talk about all things blues; we have grabbed our chance now as we can hear that “Train a Coming,” and who knows where it will take them!
We started by noting Ritchie’s place in the blues world, and how he saw himself as an archetypal bluesman.
Ritchie Dave- I’m so much more! I’m a blues based guitarist, or more accurately, a blues-based rock guitarist. Obviously, everything I play is heavily influenced by the bluesmen of old. I like to combine blues pentatonic guitar scales and licks with Spanish and jazz scales, and I’m free to do whatever I want. If I want to do a country rock song, then I will dip into country, like when I do “River and the Preacher,” which is Southern style. If I want to turn to the Hendrix kind of heavy blues rock, then I’ll do “Sugar and Spice” or “You’re Bad in a Good Way.” If I want to rock out 100%,% then I’ll write “Sweet Treacle.” I play what I want to play and don’t like to be pigeonholed, and that’s probably why Jimmy Page is such an influence, he played folk and blues, classical, whatever he chose. As a guitarist, just express yourself as honestly as you can through whichever style suits you best.
In discussing the last album, we noted how Ritchie Dave Porter is very much a singer songwriter, and that the material for albums is largely written in house. I noted a favourite of ours in the magazine was “Sugar and Spice” and we wondered how that one came about. It has a certain country touch to it.
Ritchie Dave- It started off like many of our songs; they all start with me on my own, sitting down and playing with riffs and chords. I get into my Zen state when I am composing in my own world for a few hours. There was no intention for a specific style with that one, but it came out with a late-60s funky blues vibe, and that’s what it is. But “Sugar and Spice” or “You Make Me Feel Bad in a Good Way” are the types of songs that could have been made in the late sixties. Then again, you have material like “I Can Hear the Train A Comin’,” which could have been written in the late fifties, as it has that jazz or blues feel to it. The thing about “Sugar and Spice” is that it’s something you can dance to.
Of course, the tradition of blues artists is to entertain. Look at BB King; he took part in variety shows and had his own look and personality. He was all about providing entertainment and bringing his energy to the stage. It was never the case that the blues were the caricature of the man sitting on the gate, sadly playing his guitar about how he had wronged his woman! We wondered how Ritchie saw the blues as a music vehicle.
Ritchie Dave- I agree with what you say. Let me say that many years back in 2012 I was fighting stage 3 cancer, and I have been playing guitar since 11. That’s 40 years of playing. But when I went through the horror of cancer, tumours and chemotherapy – it made me feel and play the blues deeper than ever before. It was expressing the soul. Back in the days when I was a solo artist, I did an instrumental called “Morphine Blues.” Now, that track was recorded in a chemotherapy ward by Michael Tingle. I thought then it might be my final guitar statement, but I survived, and everything turned out fine. I then did those acoustic blues albums, but people forget there were a lot of electric tracks on albums one and four, and I’ve done acoustic Spanish. Those were albums I’m proud of.
There was a solid maturity of style and songwriting on the 2015 acoustic blues album, which we really liked and had played around the office.
Ritchie Dave- The reason I did that album right back to basics was I wanted to return to a stripped down sound like Robert Johnson the great American blues musician. I wanted a guitar and two microphones, and after years of making mostly acoustic based records with a few electric tracks I felt like I had all I had with the blues rock acoustic stuff. I returned to electric, but wasn’t feeling it with the Gibson guitars at that time, I had Gibson Les Pauls, but I went into a music store a few years ago and fell in love with a telecaster. It is that icy tone that cuts; nothing to me matches the feeling of playing a telecaster. So every single track that Debra and I wrote for the “Story So Far” album, all thirteen tracks and singles were played with the telecaster through a Fender amp, no foot pedals. I write all the music, and Debra writes the lyrics and melodies, so I’m never sure what she will come up with for the chords and riffs I provide. She surprises me.
Speaking of Debra, her background is musical theatre. We felt that this heritage must now be appearing both on the album and in their work together.
Ritchie Dave- I believe it has from the start. When I first invited Debra round for coffee and said, “Listen, I have written this song, “One Hell of a Ride,” I’ve structured and arranged it, and I know it’s not for me to sing.” I just wanted to hear how she would sound and what she would come up with. But it was a magical meeting, there was a real vibe, and as soon as I started playing the riffs, she was tapping her foot and coming up with the words. Then we rehearsed it, and it was written quickly. I knew there was a magic there that I never had with anyone else, so Debra was the icing on the cake. It came with an incredible energy, and we’ve written about seventeen songs now, thirteen on the album and a couple out that weren’t on the album; “The River and the Preacher” was one of them, a southern rock style song. We have been highly creative, and it is a melting pot of jazz, southern rock, and blues.
It is often interesting to see how we change musically, both in our listening tastes and creatively. How would a teenage Ritchie Dave Porter view his current album?
Ritchie Dave- I think the teenage me would have loved it. When eleven I discovered Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page and BB King, Jeff Beck and the greats through my Dad’s record collection. He mostly listened to blues and jazz guitarists, he played jazz drums.My first exposure to guitars would have been BB King, Freddie King, and jazz guitarists like Barney Kessel. Then my dad bought Smash Hits, a Jimi Hendrix hits album, and that blew me away. I remember sitting there and working out note for note “Manic Depression” from Hendrix, or “Purple Haze,” I was learning it. So the sixteen year old me would still be there with me. Now I listen to Van Halen, and I like his pure tone, I have respect for him, but the sixteen year old me would really dig “The Story so far,” as you can hear the influences there, you can hear the Stones and Hendrix in there. And that is my side. You also have Debra, with her classical training in opera, she has brought her love of other traditions to the music as well..
There is so much positive at the moment in the vibrant UK blues scene. We have featured some great acts here recently, showing how alive it is. Bands like Catfish, Five Points Gang, and solo singers like Emma Wilson and Laura Evans are fusing different musical traditions to create a powerful UK blues scene.
Ritchie Dave- There is a huge variety in the UK blues scene. Every now and then I see a solo artist or band that I love, with some great players. For me it is all about the riffs, and I have a commercial feel, but I have a succession of number ones on the indie scene in Australia. We were also voted the third best blues track in Australia in 2022 for “Sugar and Spice.” I’ve never been down under, but I’d love to go.
We finished with talking about the changing nature of buying music and the place of vinyl in a childhood of the seventies and eighties when the album had to be listened to as a whole, with tracks chosen in a certain order. With downloads, that experience has somewhat gone, along with keeping a record ‘collection.’
Ritchie Dave- I am so glad we did a physical CD release of the album “The Story So Far,” I liked it when the CD arrived, and the artwork done by Mike the producer was so nice. To be honest, I only use downloads when travelling; I will enjoy putting on the headphones on the train, otherwise, I like the physical sensation of the CD.
And so we draw a conclusion. There are exciting days ahead for Ritchie and Debra, including a wedding on the way! So please accept our heartfelt congratulations to both of them. If you want to catch this duo live, they are playing The Great British Rock and Blues Festival at Butlins, Skegness, from January 13–16, 2023, along with Five Points Gang and The Milkmen (among others). We will be performing with the telecaster on the ‘Blues Matters Magazine Stage.’ That is the next gig that I would recommend you to come and see and sadly that is the last of the festivals they are doing at Skegness. There is also the new single to check out, “Working in the City.“
By Benny (the Ball) Benson
Mark C Chambers.
I am so pleased to be the one who writes the majority of the reviews for our magazine, as it gives me the chance to listen to new material and give a push to artists who have bucket loads of talent and deserve the credit.
This is an album by Birmingham duo Ritchie Dave Porter and Debra Susan. Now Ritchie Dave Porter has been known for some time on the UK live blues circuit. He plays a mean blues and has been quite prolific in the past with autobiographical lyrics connecting him to traditional acoustic blues (maybe check out 2015’s Acoustic Blues CD/EP).
However, this new album, “The Story So Far,” teams him up with Debra Susan, and in doing so, it takes him into new fields. The album is written in-house and includes a variety of musical styles. I gave it the ‘in-car test’ by playing it nice and loud on the M6 on a hot British Saturday, and it did not disappoint. British blues is interesting and vibrant at the moment. Laura Evans, talking to our co-editor recently, commented that British blues is much more connected to rock today than its American cousin. I think she is right. Listen to Five Points Gang, for example, and you have a blend of rock and blues that is very British. You will find that here on “Sweet Treacle,” a track that kicks out both the volume and the energy. It’s a rock track that acknowledges the blues, and you turn the volume on it to ten.
Debra Susan adds something new to Ritchie’s guitar work, and this is her vocal style, of course. When the two mesh together successfully, it really is excellent. The best example would probably be “I Can Hear the Train Coming,” which is a masterclass in opening an album and blending her natural country style of vocals with the guitar. This girl is natural country, Ritchie is blues all the way; they meet each other halfway and it explodes on this track.
It also works on “Sugar & Spice” which is, naturally, twice as nice, with an appealing move on the album toward her vocal melody and the resulting melodic country rock works for the duo.
This has to be a blues album too, and the blues is very much here. I enjoyed the wistful Southern sound of “Lonely & Blues”, which is about as traditional a line as the album could take.
So this album works for me, I loved when the styles connected and fused, sending the sparks upward. Occasionally, it didn’t work for me. “You Make Me Feel Bad in a Good Way” missed the target for this reviewer. But I really wish this duo well. Follow a couple of these links and listen to a few tracks, or even the album! You won’t regret it!
By Stevie Ritson
by guitardoorAugust 9, 2021
Birmingham is cited for numerous Musical Phenoms and holds as Home for Ritchie Dave Porter the Birmingham Blues Legend. It’s hard to buy something for a man who has everything. In Ritchie’s case, it’s hard to say more positive accolades than he already has been given. However, I am going to add another voice to the Choir.
I knew instantly just by two songs into the latest project we not only had a love for the Telecaster but we also play diverse styles of guitar and that’s the mark of a musician. Some people learn to play in an academic sense and there is not any Negative to that. However you have players of any chosen instrument, but a Musician is a different animal by the Origin of the word muse. There’s a magic there, Mr. Porter is tapped into the Muse. I myself as “Jimmy Fleming” 30 plus years as the guitarist professionally am an odd duck. When I hear a player who is better than me I get excited, not jealous or cynical. Ritchie sure stirred some excitement.
BECOMING A BIRMINGHAM BLUES LEGEND
On the Subject of Birmingham, he relayed “ I was born in Marston Green in Birmingham UK on January 18th, 1970. Birmingham is home to half of Led Zeppelin and all Black Sabbath and before the epidemic was thriving blues and Hard Rock City. Hopefully, things will return to normality once the epidemic is over as gigs and festivals were obviously canceled but will slowly resume.”
WHAT PEOPLE SAY ABOUT THE BIRMINGHAM BLUES LEGEND RITCHIE DAVE PORTER
‘King of minimalist Blues with plenty of feels ‘-Get Ready to Rock! Radio, Pete Feenstra
‘Ritchie Dave Porter is one of the finest Blues Rock guitarists to come out of Birmingham UK. Power, control and an instinctive emotional touch ‘-Rock Radio UK, Trevor Hazel
‘There is no doubt about it, Ritchie Dave Porter is prolific, giving us a constant stream of high-quality guitar work that is outstanding ‘-Blues In the South magazine, Ian k McKenzie
‘Ritchie is not afraid to mix his Blues with jazz and rock and even Spanish influences and plays a sparkling guitar’-Blues magazine
He is such a player that that thing many of us dream and froth at the mouth over, the “Endorsement Deal” came to knock on his Guitar Door as well. “Eko guitars Italy asked me to be an official Endorsed Artist as I play Eko dreadnought electroacoustic when I play acoustic so I still endorse their acoustic guitars to this day. I first bought an EKO due to Jimmy Page using an Eko acoustic in the 1970s on some Led Zeppelin performances live and in the studio. The page will always be a huge influence as is Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix and Carlos Santana and Johnny Winter.
In addition to the EKO Gear wise…”At present, I have recorded Blues, Blues Jazz, Blues Rock, Hard Rock using electric guitars mostly Telecasters, and also released acoustic blues records although I rarely play acoustic these days as I love playing my Telecasters so much as they feel perfect to play and have that classic tone. I do not use foot pedals at all just a Telecaster through a Marshall amp .”
When speaking to new Players or players looking advance forward in the new days we live in He Imparted “ I would encourage new guitar players to play from the heart and master rhythm guitar playing before learning how to play solos.A new player should listen to Blues guitarists and understand pentatonic scales and play with feel and soul not go for speed as speed is great but feel and soul is more important otherwise it is soulless.’
Talking the Jam of the Magic Lamp “ If I could jam with anyone it would be Jimmy Page for sure I love his style, tone, and eclectic versatility, he was one of the innovators and an excellent electric and acoustic guitarist. If Page and I jammed it would be one hell of a Blues jam for sure.”
Now Ritchie is not alone in his endeavours and is well pleased to have a Partner in music Enter Debra Susan. “ I invited Debra for coffee and played her the rhythm guitar part and riffs to what became our first single “One Hell Of A Ride” and Debra immediately impressed me, singing incredibly and wrote the lyrics right away. It was a magical meeting and we ate now a blues and rock duo and in a romantic relationship so musically and personally we are very happy, creatively and romantically.” “ Debra and I are opening the forthcoming John Bonham A Celebration 2 Festival on Saturday 25th September and as we are huge Led Zeppelin fans it is an absolute honour to open and perform at this Rock Festival in John Bonham’s hometown of Redditch.”
The latest of Richie Dave Porter’s work is a set of 6 singles with Debra and Producer Michael Tingle. What I heard made me go back in thought yet again to Music Being Art on the Canvas of Silence. This Gentleman uses every hue of color. He is not a “one-trick pony” and he is, as I’ve discovered lately of The Guitarists in the U.K., just a real good-natured fellow. If we can have a Pandemic, I want one of Humility and equal respect. They have it across the Pond.
Fast Train Rollin ‘- A new piece in the history of the Blues
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
“It’s the delivery and sound of a story teller going back to absolute basics with just an acoustic guitar and a voice. “
Read more here:
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. ****