Bo Porter’s a guy who’s been making a lot of noise around central and south Texas for years. Texas being what it is, and geography posing some rather blatant challenges now and again, it isn’t unusual for a superb talent to make waves worldwide on the ‘web but go unnoticed in other parts of his or her home state. While no one can say Porter has gone altogether unnoticed in the northern wastes of the Lone Star state, it’s definitely safe to say fans around the DFW area haven’t had significant exposure. And that’s a shame. This guy can play, and he surrounds himself with musicians of serious caliber. Chris Reeves, for example, is an excellent picker and a consummate pro who’s been making his bones in the business since he was in his teens. (Note: Chris’ first solo record, A Good Year for Beer, was the subject of a recent Outlaw Mag review) When Chris isn’t around, sometimes it’s Redd Volkaert on the lead for Bo. Drummers, fiddlers, trumpeters, pedal steel and ukulele players rotate in and out of Porter’s sphere depending on availability, but they all read like a who’s who of accomplished musicianship. Jimmy C. Clark, for instance, handled six instruments on this recording.
A couple of decades into his run, Porter’s established himself first and foremost as a pro’s pro, a guy real musicians want to work with. And also as a performer who meets his commitments, every time. Oddly enough, those can be rare qualities in a world where dependability is really the only path to a regular paycheck. Commitment to craft doesn’t come much more highly recommended than frontmen who crack ribs crashing their Harleys and still show up for scheduled gigs on four nights following. But Bo’s done that, and thankfully the laying down his bike part has not become a habit.
Porter’s also widely recognized for two other things. One, he knows how to work a crowd. Venue owners and booking agents love an artist who’ll leave everyone feeling fine when the lights come up, and Bo fits the bill. Discriminating fans, on the other hand, look for artists who can mix it up and make a setlist shimmer with lights from a thousand stars. Bo and his band fit the bill there exceedingly well. Try Your Luck is a great example; tracks range from the most haunted of hillbilly nightmare sounds (“It Don’t Matter”) through the smooth, almost jazz-like hypnosis of “I Didn’t See That Comin’.” Whole lot of honky-tonk, stone country, and a smattering of rock and hard core blues in between. Shoot, Porter even invokes The Ventures with “Rattle Your Brain.”
It’s a feast for the ears, a good time Saturday night chock full of energy and flat-out picking. Throw in a distinctive baritone that carves its own path while assimilating itself to the needs of a given song, you’ve got something unusual and worthwhile. This isn’t your standard three songs and a smattering of pseudo-truth set to recycled 80s pop melodies crap that permeates Texas music these days. It’s far more substantial than that, almost a musical history lesson on its own. The influences are vast, the sounds are varied, and every last note is pitch perfect and hammered home.
Lyrically it’s a varied record as well. “Speak Your Mind” reminds us that running your mouth in a beer joint can be a bad idea (Speak your mind, but not while you’re drinking/Liable to say just what you’ve been thinking/Keep your peace and just get along/You might be right but it could go so wrong). Simple enough, and words we all know we should heed when we’re eating dinner Saturday evening but seem to forget by the time the band’s fired up. On the other end of the spectrum, the funky beat and delivery of “Heart Full of Love” get all Biblical:
The Lord now He told Noah
Go build me a great big boat
He said a-build that thing just like I say
Gonna make that big boat float
Send down a mighty rain
And gonna send my creatures in two by two
Don’t listen to the people, Noah
When they call you a fool
Just keep your heart full of love
Standout tracks are tough to peg on truly well-done records, but a couple jump out here nonetheless. “Real Good Day” is as simple and true and heartfelt a song about life’s small joys as perhaps anything we’ve heard since Jerry Jeff Walker was still a drunken bard of the ‘70s. Has some of that Lone Wolf feel to it, to boot. Smooth rolling tune, the kind of thing Kevin Higgins does where the seemingly mundane gets hit with a new light that showcases all of its hidden and magnificent wonder. And the closer, “Bury Me On Sunday,” is a beautiful stunner of a song. Porter’s voice is an exceedingly malleable instrument of its own, and this track showcases its subtle power in uncompromising fashion.
All in all, Try Your Luck is a record worth your hard-earned dollar. And Bo Porter’s a guy you’re gonna want to get to know a bit. Refreshing and bracing, unique while still treading the hallowed ground of country music’s greatest sounds. This record’s a gem, and if a particular song doesn’t suit your taste, just hit the button and start the next one up. It’s a rewarding ride, exceedingly well done, and ultimately a great example of just what Texas music is supposed to be.
Head to www.boporter.com for details.
There are also some song samples and CDs for sale HERE.
~ Dave Pilot
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Dave Pilot lives in north Texas with his first good wife (don’t ask about the other one), seven horses, and five dogs. When his wife’s not looking, he tries to figure out ways to feed the 987 or so cats to the coyotes out behind the fenceline. When he’s not trying to raise his kids to turn out better than he did, he’s hitting historical sites on his way to honky-tonks from Denton to Port Aransas.
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