by Jeremy Berg
How best to describe Milwaukees own Willy Porter? Well, put it this way: There are a lot of guys out there with acoustic guitars, but most of them arent buddies with Jethro Tull. Yes, Porter is well known as a singersongwriter and deservedly so but thats too narrow a label to really tell what hes about, and his latest record, Available Light, hammers it home.
His range in sound and subject is present right from the opening title cut, which takes the phrase available light and stretches it from plants taking in energy, to the open spaces remaining in a troubled relationship, to Galileo using it literally and figuratively to change the world.
Nor are the lyrics the only highlight. Porter recorded this album with his touring band, and they prove to be as versatile and multi-faceted as he is, adding spacy atmosphere (Available Light, Where Are My Keys?), poignancy (Still Doing Time, Me & My Old Man,) and a driving rock beat (Loose Gravel, Reveal) as needed. When combined with Porters excellent acoustic guitar technique, its no wonder that the instrumental tracks are as expressive as the rest.
Lyrics, though, remain one of Porters strengths. On Available Light, theyre never less than good, and occasionally stunning. Me & My Old Man is a loving tribute to Porters late father that is neither maudlin nor melancholy, and One More September brilliantly captures the World Trade Center attack where it really counts its impact on the life of an ordinary family, changed forever by a world that cant get along. And even here theres a message of hope and love, in the gorgeous image of a child setting a letter on fire so that the rising ashes will take it up to her mother. Beauty and loss in the available light.
Riverwest Currents online edition – November, 2006