Review by Pete Feenstra
“Ritchie Dave Porter is a blues-rock guitarist from Birmingham who tells us on his liner notes that: ‘Rocking the Blues’ is the expression of my soul through the guitar’, and also that: ‘Every note is played with emotion’.
You can’t argue with his sentiments even if some of the songs don’t quite cut it. With the exception of a few drum tracks, Ritchie is responsible for everything on an album that is full of passionate songs, intricate acoustic to scorching electric guitar licks and a close to the mic vocal that draws the listener in to Michael Tingle’s coherent arrangements.
This is a blues rock album that eschews cliché, through simple lyrics that reflect personal experiences and thoughts, such as ‘Return To The Saddle’ , and the acoustic to electric highlight ‘Ain’t Giving Up On Love’. The latter moves seamlessly from a rhythmic acoustic intro, to a scorching electric guitar line with the same warm expressive vocals that colours all 14 songs.
The album is theoretically split in to the old vinyl idea of side one and two, with side one being mostly acoustic to electric arrangements, while on side two he frequently strips things down.
He’s not quite convincing on the slow blues of ‘3AM’ which labours to overcome a variable double tracked vocal and a sludgy tempo, but it eventually recovers with an incisive, and crisp electric solo that rings with a resonant tone. And as he works his way lyrically though the early hours of the morning, the song does have the dubious quality of evoking a hangover!
He’s far better on the acoustic slide and folk-blues feel of ‘Waiting For The Train’, before he adds an parallel electric guitar line on a busy track that tries too hard. Much like ‘3AM’, the dreamy instrumental ‘Morphine Blues’ does a great job in evoking the song title, with a snaking lead solo bathed in echo reverb and crisp percussion.
‘I’m Back’ kicks ass and mirrors its rock & roll message, while he heavies things up on another instrumental ‘Into the Darkness’ with an edgy buzz guitar line.
There’s deft picking on the live in the studio ‘Lord Have Mercy’ and some excellent dobro on ‘Rabbit in the Hole’ with Michael Tingle joining him on drums. There’s a curious dynamic to the track, which starts out with a lyrically laid back summery feel before a startling electric guitar burst lifts it from its languor.
The slow building melody and rich tone of ‘Autumn’ could be Snowy White, while ‘The Stygian Which’ is another arresting melody with a beautiful acoustic guitar shadowed by two electric guitar lines, suggesting his strength lies in melodic instrumentals. It’s not strictly blues of course, but it’s played from the heart.
‘Rock Chic’ rounds things off with a disposable rocker that is in dire need of a bass line, but again there’s no denying the burning of his licks.
‘Rocking the Blues’ achieves its aim of playing music with emotion. Not everything works and the album as a whole has a live demo feel, but it’s that edge that makes ‘Rocking the Blues’ just a little bit different from the usual rock blues fare. ***”