It’s 8:32am on a brisk New Jersey morning, October 19, 2017. I’m about halfway through my third rotation of Porter & The Bluebonnet Rattlesnakes’, Don’t Go Baby It’s Gonna Get Weird Without You, wondering if my heart is going to dropout again when I get to “When We Were Young”. Like most folks who crossed paths with him, Porter and I became friends and kept on via texted “how do you dos” and anecdotes about life and dreams and dogs. I was (am) trying to hash out a writing “career” and he was already an established and respected singer-songwriter, frontman, rockstar who just didn’t feel the love. We talked about how this next record was the one – the writing process, the ideas, the pain, the love, the need to create. I, like most, anxiously watched social web posts and listened to video snippets while he and a top notch roster of musicians including Will Johnson, John Calvin Abney, and Shonna Tucker tinkered away in the studio. A few months later he sent me the soundcloud link after things were mixed and mastered, I was floored as I thought there wasn’t a chance he could beat his last effort, This Red Mountain.
I don’t shed much light on it but I’m partners in a little label with a bunch of cool folks from Alabama called Cornelius Chapel Records. Porter sent his new album over as he and management where shopping for label interest, referring to us as the home team, which I loved. I was heading out for a Southeast to Texas run with the Dexateens as he, Mitchell Vandenberg, and Adam Nurre set out heading East and then North as The Bluebonnet Rattlesnakes. I was bummed that we would be in his hometown of Austin, TX while he was in the Dexateens hometown of Tuscaloosa, AL and we both got a kick out of the irony of it. I told him I loved the record and he assured me we’d meet up and asked if I could possibly help find a place for them to play in New Jersey on 10/21. We joked about drag racing their newly acquired van against our newly acquired RV the next time we’d be in Austin for SXSW. Two days later while being bounced around the RV’s bathroom on the way to the airport I received a text with the news. And it broke my heart and everyone else’s, not just in the RV, but in our entire musical community coast to coast, country to country.
After much healing and a few conversations with Porter’s fiancé Andrea Juarez, the great Bonnie Whitmore, and Baby Robot Media’s Steve Labate, we had a loose game plan to make sure this beautiful and phenomenal record gets the recognition it so justly deserves. Andrea is the toughest woman I know, impeccably smart and overly thoughtful. I can’t imagine what she must be going through today along with Porter’s family and the legions of friends and counterparts he’s left behind. The idea was to release the album one year and a day after the tragic accident. We all had less than three months to press vinyl and CDs, make shirts and gather merch, and run a press campaign. Pearl Junior, wife of the great John Moreland, designed the artwork based on a tequila-fueled night around a campfire with Porter and the first time I laid eyes on it I cried like a baby. She immortalized all things Porter, most notably his best friend in K9 form, Rufus, whom he lost and was devastated by. Pearl’s art is astounding and will be available in t-shirt form too, thankfully.
Don’t Go Baby It’s Gonna Get Weird Without You would’ve landed Porter on whatever map it was he was looking for. He was already adorned by the Americana/Alt-Country world but I think he longed for more as he’d been a figurehead of that realm for a very longtime with the Some Dark Holler, The Back Row Baptists, and that killer Porter & the Pollies record. This offering was the one – the one that will undoubtedly seal his legacy but the one that would’ve put him where he wanted to be. Everything came together seamlessly: the songs, the cast of characters, the magic that happens when artists and energy and ether combine. This is the record to go out on your shield with – a veritable one-two bunch of epic proportions with This Red Mountain into DGBBIGGWWY. There are songs to cry by, songs to love to, songs to break shit to, songs to live by, and songs to die by. With every tear-filled listen another subtle nuance is noticed. Porter had this uncanny way creatively mixing words and double entendres like a well-read cowboy high on John Prine and red wine. Porter was a road dog through and through and his tragic end just so happened to be on the very asphalt that he’d no doubt traversed hundreds if not thousands of times before. His mark is forever in my ears, heart, mind, and soul, whatever small part we can play to perpetuate his spirit is a blessing and an honor.
“Hey brother! Hope you are well. I’ve got the mixes from this new record, and my management and I are getting ready to start passing it around to see if there’s any label interest. I’m not sure what y’all have going on, but I wanted to send it out to the home team first. I’ll be out with my full band from August through November so I’m certain we will be up your way octoberish.
This is myself with:
Will Johnson- Drums, Vocals, Production
Shonna Tucker- Bass, Vocals
John Calvin Abney- Guitar, Vocals, Pedal Steel, Piano, Synth, Accordion, Harmonica
Chris Masterson- Guitar
Eleanor Whitmore- Violin”
I love you Porter, “All the best songs lie”.