Now on their fourth release, I must admit that The Porkroll Project somehow sailed beneath my radar. Their previous work (now I have checked them out) consists of the self-titled debut, Shake It Twice and Three Legged Dog (co-incidentally a Bob Daisley band name), all packed with solid blues, both covers and originals; the same is true of their recently released Papa Didn’t Raise Me Right. The name seems to derive from main-man Neil ‘Porkroll’ Taylor and his apparently famous barbecues! The band, with the odd line-up change, has been entertaining for around twenty years and their performance reflects this with almost psychic links between the bedrock bass and drums as they set the backdrop for the Hammond, guitar and horns to weave around.
Opening and title track, Papa Didn’t Raise Me Right, shows how they work so well together as Neil shows his mettle on guitar and vocals on this rocking, bluesy song. A neat riff allows room for some fiery guitar phrases as the storytelling style vocals lead nicely to a very good guitar solo that’s runs and bends but never tries to over flash, but stays perfectly in tune with the framework of the song, and closes with a wah’d soo of equal quality…the Hammond sounds great too.
Down In Mexico is from the songwriting powerhouse, Lieber and Stoller, and was The Coasters debut single in 1957. The original didn’t have guitar runs like this…a very good reading that brings it up to date but keeps a kernel of that single. The piano adds many a phrase (apt, as the song is about a piano player “in a honky-tonk down in Mexico”) but the guitar is the star as it fits the melodies in around another class solo, and they have great fun when the lady with castanets enters the tale. Going To The Station follows a recognisable format with a Chicago R’n’B feel as the piano does another great job with the horns laying down the base for the story and then gets a solo to show that Walter can do it too although, not to be outdone, the guitar does a great solo as well!
The pace slows for Crescent Moon: a more traditional blues as the sax sets the scene for the ‘old fashioned’ repeated lines; the Hammond is swirling around the guitar as the tension builds to the solos which ensure you know it’s the blues…careful phrasing and just the right number of notes. Better You Than Me has a sense of fun lyrically and musically as the riff will have you searching the memory cells: it’s catchy and, if Benny Hill had done country blues, this would have suited him to a tee! Until that is, a great guitar solo takes the riff, expands and plays with it while the backing sounds like a banjo-picking gently.
Mama Put The Gun Down may start like ‘Sex and Drugs and Rock ’n’ Roll’ but it certainly isn’t Ian Drury…it’s a story about a family feud sung to a funky blues soundtrack with another thoughtful and rather excellent picked and chorded solo. Dancing With The Angels takes us dancing in a cross between line and jive! Add in a gospel founded chorus and it becomes a great blend with barrelling piano backing and solo, followed by a suitably retro feel to the solid guitar solo. Nothin’ Yet is blues with harp adding depth to the riff. A fiery guitar solo adds to the enjoyment too. The Next Thing Smokin’ is about catching a mode of transport and, at first, I was expecting the Joe Diffie song, but it isn’t country; it’s a countrified blues with lots of nice guitar jangling as recognisable tropes are updated and used to great effect, with a nice harp solo before the guitar takes centre stage.
Sentenced To The Blues is a great reading of a great song: this one is from an underrated bluesman called Georgie Bonds it appeared on his 2015 album, Hit It Hard with Cleveland (who wrote it) and Runge helping out. It’s a touch faster and follows a strong template without straight copying…it’s a good song whichever version you listen to, although the guitar solo here makes me go for this one first.
Closing the album is A Taste Of Malt Liquor. It refers to a type of beer (not the hard stuff) as Neil name-checks Colt45 in the lyrics…but as I’m British I think I can be forgiveness I am a Newcastle Brown, whisky (without an ‘e’ or red wine man.) The song is made for drinking, whatever your chosen libation, as the chorus just begs to be sung along to. The drum roll entrance to saxiness leads to a traditional structure with plenty of bounce and some neat chord work. The sax solo adds to the party before a harmony guitar part remembers Zion and leads to a great solo…the lemon juice and turpentine is a stretch too far for me! A nice way to round off an entertaining and well thought out album by quality musicians.
Bluesdoodles rating: 3 Doodle Paws – a great listen for some quality bluesy rock, rock’n’roll and blues performed impeccably by a band that know each other so well.
Track listing (original performers):
Papa Didn’t Raise Me Right
Down In Mexico
Going To The Station
Better You Than Me
Mama Put The Gun Down
Dancing With The Angels
The Next Thing Smokin’
Sentenced To The Blues
A Taste Of Malt Liquor
Neil “Porkroll” Taylor: guitars, vocals
Buddy Cleveland: harmonica, vocals
John “JT” Thomas: drums
Walter Runge: keyboards
Anthony Pieruccini: bass
Chris Neal: trumpet
Andrew Whisler: trombone
David Renz: saxophone
Paul Matecki: vocals
Recorded at Noisy Little Critter Studio
(iTunes moved from blues to the ver reliable New Wave of British Heavy Metal and served up some Praying Mantis from 1983 and the lovely Give Me A Reason.)