Living in Baltimore there sadly hasn’t been a good venue to see acoustic that was worth bands playing so most of those shows went to DC or skipped our area as a whole. Enter Club 603 which is actually a house venue that’s been putting on shows since at least 2013 and with appearances from bands like Centromatic, John Moreland and Mike Doughty you can tell it’s not your average house show. I discovered the place when Will Johnson was playing there and finally went to my first show there last year to see John Moreland. The furniture is moved out of the living room, a bunch of chairs are moved in and with that the room can hold 50-60 people depending on the band’s setup which makes for a perfect setup for acoustic performances.
John Calvin Abney was the first to play on this night and since I knew absolutely nothing about him I was glad I got there just in time for him to begin. The crowds at these shows are interesting because they’re a mix of people that know about one or more of the artists and are there to see them, or it’s one of a dedicated group that comes to shows here trusting that they always book acts worth hearing. John’s set was full of what I tend to identify as Texas storyteller songs even though he is in fact from Oklahoma but either way one song in I knew I was buying his record as soon as this show was over. I talked to John after the show only to find out that he’d not only played on John Moreland and Samantha Crain’s records but that i’d seen him play with Crain in DC previously. His solo record Better Luck, which Moreland plays on, is just as great as his set was so give it a listen.
Up next was Porter who I hadn’t seen since his days as Some Dark Holler but I’ve enjoyed his new solo record, that Will Johnson produced, This Red Mountain since its release earlier this year. His set included songs from that record and new songs as well as some from previous projects like The Back Row Baptists which all flowed great together and were very well received by the crowd that was largely new to him. He then brought up John for a few songs and we were treated to some of their tour stories from his Natural Disaster run including a sleeping pill and ibuprofen mishap that resulted in a perilous drive to the next stop. The songs they played together were fantastic and left me wanted to see them together again.
Closing out the night was North Carolina’s Caleb Caudle who had previously played this venue in January so most of the audience was at least familiar with him. He started off with some songs from last years record Paint Another Layer on My Heart which it was obvious the crowd new well and loved. We were then treated to a mix of new songs off his forthcoming record as well as more songs from the previous two records. This room is dead quiet and with hardwood floors a voice like Caleb’s just fills up the place beautifully. It’s a rare treat to be able to sit/stand and listen to songs like these without the artist fighting to overcome some sort of crowd noise. I’m looking forward to all of these guys next stop through Club 603.
Chris Porter brings his deep strong voice with emotional stories in his upcoming (due out early March) debut solo album This Red Mountain.
Porter has been working relentlessly on the content of this album for some time. The songs tell the stories of his real life and have meaning and conviction that the listener can truly feel. The title track This Red Mountain portrays the whole story so well. He was living in Birmingham and had a tough situation and moved to Austin with Miss Bonnie Whitmore; whose family took him in and helped him change his ways for the better and gave him a chance to master new musical challenges. While in Austin he began writing his perfect stories of life, love, dark times and redemption. He went into Ramble Creek Studio with his band and producer Will Johnson hoping to crank out an album that was free of cliché and within four days of live recording turned out something spectacular.
Porter stated that having Jon Dee Graham coming into the studio to play steel on Hardest Healing the last day of recording and hearing the playback of the first take was real validation that his record was going in the direction he’d been hoping for. Jon even illustrated the cover of the album and held Porter’s sanity together through the process of putting the album out with a label.
In Porter’s own words: “It’s not a happy record, it’s bleak, and it’s sad. The characters are flawed, the narrators are unreliable as fuck, and the relationships are complicated, but it was made by family. I’m one of the luckiest musicians on the planet.” I could not agree more, the images the songs paint are not beautifully tied up with ribbons, but they do tell beautiful stories in their own right.
Album: This Red Mountain Artist: Porter
Produced by: Will Johnson
Featuring: Chris Masterson & Eleanor Whitmore (Steve Earle/The Matsersons)
Bonnie Whitmore ( Solo artist, bad ass bass player, vixen)
Falcon Valdez (The Happen-inns)
Jon Dee Graham (Texas music legend)
Recorded live in Austin, Texas by Britton Beisenherz
Featured Track: Hardest Healing
The Back Row Baptists were brought to my attention via some of my fellow Twitter tweeters a few months back, and after a few mishaps one of their new cds, Broken Hearts & Bad Decisions, landed in my mailbox. For a while I really didn’t think I liked the album very much but after a few passes I realized that there was just a 4 song stretch (tracks 4 thru 7) in the middle of the cd that I really didn’t like. I deleted them and found a new band that I am digging the hell out of.
The Back Row Baptists come out of Birmingham, Alabama and consist of Chris Porter, Sarah Green, Heath Green, Susan Nuckols, Adam Guthrie and Jay Taylor. Where I come from, Southern Baptists are everywhere. Besides being bat shit crazy they are also one of the most judgemental cults you’ll ever run across (but at least they don’t rape little boys like those pesky Catholics). I tell you this because I’ve always heard the term “back row Baptist” used as a descriptor for a Southern Baptist who drinks, gambles and commits other hell-worthy offenses, of which Southern Baptists have more than the day is long. Now, I don’t know if that’s where the band pulled the term from, but I am pretending that it is.
Their bio describes their music as “uniquely Southern” and “outlaw gospel”. In this era of internets, cable tv and increased homogeneity, I’m not quite sure what “uniquely Southern” really means anymore, but I can damned sure get on board with the “outlaw gospel” descriptor. Another one of my fellow twitter tweeters called them, “a Birmingham version of American Aquarium”. It was a comparison that I had not even thought of, but damned if a revisit to the album didn’t prove it to be dead on. Both bands write real songs about real people (literally) and real situations. However, The Back Row Baptists do it with a lot more of a country flair. One might say Chris Porter’s voice sounds a little like a young pre-years of road abuse Ben Nichols while his inflection could be the brother of BJ Barham’s. I’m also told they’re one hell of a fun band to see live, so I just might have to put on my show promoter hat and get them down here to Florida.