I have liked Ritchie Dave Porter ever since I read an interview with him by Michael Limnios, where he said “I would encourage the younger generation of today to stop listening to crap like Kanye West and Justin Bieber and open their hearts and souls to real musicianship and encourage them to download Jimi Hendrix ‘Are you experienced”’. Now here is a man I can relate to.
If he is new to you, then a potted history… Birmingham (UK) born, he has been playing the guitar since he was 11. Having toured a three-piece band called Voodoo Witch Blues Band for a number of years, he called time on this format in the early 2000s and moved on to solo acoustic blues. He has also fought against cancer and is in remission. We here at Bluesdoodles wish you well in your continuing battle Ritchie. A lot has happened to this musician and experiences and tribulations like these have informed and coloured his writing. Although predominantly acoustic-based, RDP, as he refers to himself, is not averse to plugging in and rocking it up with his SG or Strat.
His latest release, Fast Train Rollin’, is more pure blues. His inspirations will always be the blues masters of old and yet, when you are drawn into his unique reading of the genre, you will only occasionally find a ‘sounds like’ moment and, even then, he has a knack of taking a familiar structure and turning it effortlessly into a special ‘RDP moment’. I do confess to worrying if he could expand and develop from the sweeping blues of End Of The Line. That album remains a constant in my listening lists (especially the Moody/Marsden like Father)…I should have known better! This album is a genuine next step; a sometimes autobiographical, sometimes barbed but always entertaining journey that we can share in every nuance of playing and every word of the stories laid bare.
On opener, New Beginnings, the ringing tone of the acoustic guitars may evoke other players but just listen to the superb picking ‘solos’ as he makes the guitar talk with varying pick pressure and runs that I have already given up trying to replicate. No words, but this track speaks absolute volumes of emotion, hope and an enjoyment of what is available to us if we take the time to look and appreciate…a superb first track. Next up is RDP in his element…on Blues to the End, he cleverly combines a few of the standard blues structures and makes them his own in an authentic and loose way…I love the way the odd string against fret buzz is left in as it highlights the honesty of his approach and skill. A similar honesty applies to the lyrics as he says, without seeking sympathy, “I’ve had the Big C, I’ll play blues to the end”. Girl With the Red Hair has more superb strumming interspersed with deft picking. A Spanish tinge colours some of the playing and expands its appeal, as does the vocal duet he performs with himself (as it were). The extended solo as the song plays out is phenomenal and travels the length and breadth of the neck. Sara is obviously a love song that could have become mawkish but the lyrics will make you wish you were in love with Sara too so that you could play it to her and say…”See that’s what I mean when I say I love you”. There is also another stonking solo to keep my guitar geek happy. The title track is up next and how the hell he can make an acoustic play power chords is beyond me and that’s before he lets loose with a rapid strummed riff over which he peppers some brilliant picked phrases. Again there are no words and he lets the guitar speak for him in an enthralling way. Cold Black Heart is, I hope, before Sara came along as he tells a slightly different tale of love that was lost. Behind it all the picking is as lyrical as the lyrics and, together, provide a short and bittersweet song. Loner Blues has a basic blues trope on which he builds yet more great picked guitar over the basic melody…it has a sweeping feel that shows how a song of under three minutes can still be an epic and a total acceptance that sometimes being alone is the right thing. Sirocco brings more Spanish echoes to the chords and runs throughout and he manages to imbue it all with a (rapid) lilt and joyousness. Just give Me More Days is, as the title suggests, a deeper look into mortality with a lyrical bite that the stinging notes reflect word for word. It is a true blues form in its make up but has a unique Britishness to it that captivates. Final track, Spirits of the Wood, serves a slight surprise in that there are drums and bass inserted to make this simple and yet deeply complex instrumental a sheer delight.
In summarising this album, I can only ask you to try and imagine a guitarist that paints with acoustic music like few others can accomplish. RDP has conjured up an all acoustic album that is every inch the blues and yet it is as much blues-rock as any electric entry into that field. It is also a record that needs repeated listens so that you can truly appreciate the all-encompassing melodies, the insanely catchy acoustic riffs and the heartfelt lyrics…even in the instrumentals. So, if you like acoustic blues it is really quite simple…buy it and revel in quality playing and a maelstrom of emotions.
TENdoodle paws out of TEN …
- New Beginnings
- Blues To The End
- The Girl With Red Hair
- Fast Train Rollin’
- Cold Black Heart
- Loner Blues
- Just Give Me More Days
- Spirits Of The Wood
Ritchie Dave Porter: guitars, vocals
Michael Tingle: drums