The Coal Porters (from the album Find the One) - The Coal Porters continue to dig deep and mine a mountain of gems on their fifth release, Find the One Following on the heels of the band’s breakthough album Durango, Find the One furthers what the group terms “alternative bluegrass”. Early musical history for the band included A-list players and electric instruments for their first studio efforts, including a London tribute concert to honor Chris Hillman. Chris was an integral, though more subtle part, of the Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brother. The concerts were staged to shine more light on the musician.
Alt Blue could be the term for the legion of bluegrass bands expanding beyond the borders of tradition. A musical form that once was extremely rigid has become one of the most expanding genres in today’s musical landscape. Bela Fleck, Alison Krauss, The Wild Rumpus, Leftover Salmon, and The Punch Brothers, the list of artists taking bluegrass tradition to the next level is endless. The move is not about having the need to offer an alternative to bluegrass as there is really no need for improvement on a sound as old as the hills that gave banjo, fiddle, bass, mandolin and guitar a place to hang. It is about options within the style and growth expansion to make sure the genre moves forward.
The Coal Porters make claim to be the first Alternative Bluegrass band. Formed in Los Angeles during the late 90’s, as so many things were, The Coal Porters were originally an electric act centered around ex-Long Ryder Sid Griffin, composer of the Long Ryders 1985 hit single “Looking For Lewis And Clark”. After the band relocated from Los Angeles to London, Griffin sallied forth with renewed spirit. The Coal Porters enjoyed indie chart success in the UK and Europe and toured frequently.
Find the One is the Coal Porters’ fifth and most accomplished album since they unplugged, forgot about the electricity bill and prepared for global warming by morphing into an entirely acoustic act. Produced by British legend John Wood (Fairport Convention, Nick Drake, Squeeze, Beth Orton), Find the One is an boast five Sid Griffin songs, a trio of tunes from Scottish guitarist Neil Robert Herd, and the songwriting debut of virtuoso fiddler Carly Frey. John Breese jumps in with an instrumental and Find the One opens its audio doors to include the entry of world-class harmony singer and ace bassist, Tali Trow.
Find the One takes its sound outside to sip Mint Juleps and lose your blues by losing your shoes and dancing “Barefoot on the Courthouse Lawn”. The Alternative side of their music is painted over the bluegrass traditions that The CP’s hold close to their hearts. As fiddles and banjos pepper the air with notes, Sid’s lead vocal is joined with harmonies that offer a near ballad on “Ask Me Again”. “Farmer’s Hands” weighs family heritage against the decision of a life in music; “Red Eyed & Blue” sees Country in its delivery; “You Only Miss Her When She's Gone” hits the gas pedal for a fast-paced mountain reel, and “Brand New Home” keeps the speed going and follows road signs down to Tennessee for its story line.
The latest release offers group-grown songs for the most part, but when they take on the works of others, the tunes get a makeover that is branded with The Coal Porters’ mark. “Gospel Shore” keeps its spiritual calling adding a jazz bass line and brushed drum beat, while “Paint It Black” steals the hammered heart beat from The Rolling Stones original version and covers it with bluegrass harmony. The tearing down of the Berlin Wall tune, “Heroes”, takes the universal feel of Bowie’s original and brings the heart of the song down to the simple humanity and emotional tug of the people reaching across the rubble to offer a hand to freedom.
Firmly established on the UK and European touring circuits, The Coal Porters are an acoustic act with attitude. Live, the band plays polished yet passionately, and proves that nothing beats a band that loves what they do.