How many of the 12 originals by guitarist Thomas Porter (two co-written with fiddler Doug Bartlett) will become bluegrass classics? Given the whims of the music business, the odds are long any of them will. Right now, you’re probably thinking it is too early to be looking for classics from a band without a label and which is just now spreading its name. Perhaps you’re right, but classic songs can come from any source, and this new recording has half a dozen with potential. Those six are bright, tuneful, well-crafted songs performed, if not with jaw-dropping instrumental and vocal chops, certainly with verve and with attention to putting the right note in the right place.
Start with the title song, a nostalgic medium bouncer detailing the joys of trolley days in Phoenix, days which are “gone away, sad to say.” That has all the marks of a hit. So also does “Belt Buckle Polishing Song,” a tune whose western swing beat reflects the band’s southwest home base and which praises dancing to a song of the title’s variety. Then there is the hard-to-shake chorus of “That’s A Fine Banjo Mr. Brown,” and there is “Next Time’s A Charm,” with its bravado and a hook in which the cheater asks to be forgiven by promising that a “second” or “third” or “fourth” time he’ll be faithful. On the somber side is the slow, 3/4 murder song, “Poor Sister Cry,” one that recalls the Stanley Brothers in style.
“God Bless My Home,” however, with its marriage of rocking gospel form and patriotic themes, is the one with the most classic potential. The verses alternate patriotic theme “calls” with the title line “response,” then culminates in a stirring, emotional chorus. It is brilliantly constructed and full of appeal. If it doesn’t become a standard, it won’t be for lack of quality. I think it will, some way. Recommended. (www.copperriverband.com) BW