Porter Nickerson – Bonfire To Ash

Album Review | Weasel Records | Review by Marc Higgins | Stars: 3/5

Porter Nickerson are Carmen Nickerson a soulful vocalist and Willy Porter mean guitar player and vocalist with more than ten of his own albums under his belt.  The pair met after the release of How To Rob a Bank, Porter’s 2010 album and began collaborating soon after.  After working together on EP tracks and “This Train” on 2015’s Human Kindness.  Bonfire To Ash is the first duo album.  “Old Red Burn” is an intimate slow burn opener.  Beautiful shuffling percussion, soulful organ and two voices that complement each other perfectly, you can hear the nods, grins and winks as they share the vocal.  “Plant A Garden” has a lyric as wonderfully left field as anything David Crosby wrote for CSN&Y.  The song is a rich mix of vocal harmonies, layers of guitar and a hypnotic atmosphere.  “I Need You” is a more intimate piece, both Porter and Nickerson have fine voices and this song shows them at their best on their own and as a duo.  Together the two voices are just uplifting.  “Living Proof” is a ballad with a huge lyric of triumph over a life lived, touch of organ and those glorious voices raise it to spiritual levels.  “Echo of Love” is a lyrical joy, lines that flow with grace and beautiful detail “I’m skating by myself staring down through the clear”.  Beautiful percussion gently hammers out a train track rhythm.  Porter and Nickerson share out the verses, carrying on the idea of two people estranged and separated but both hurting.  “Wasting Time” is another slow burner with a deliciously sparse drum beat and that languid feel of Emmylou Harris on Steve Earle’s “Goodbye” or an early Rickie Lee Jones.  Porter and Nickerson spin a beautiful atmosphere on these slow brooding songs, time just stretches out deliciously.  The album Bonfire To Ash is most aptly named on these smouldering songs.  “In Bloom” starts as a raw spoken blues that builds soulfully as Carmen’s vocal joins the track.  The guitar solo, pure Lindsay Buckingham against the vocals, gives how far Porter Nickerson could take their sound and songs if they wish.  “Loving On Her Mind” is a soulful country masterpiece, with a little touch of Memphis Swamp care of the electric keyboard, another stone cold classic.  “If You Stay” is a great break up song, heart felt vocals with some glorious counterpoints and harmonies, again enriched by some soulful backing.  “Signs” starts as a bottle half empty blues with a world weary compressed vocal and fills out with two vocals into a beautiful duet over a shuffling beat and a gently plucked guitar.  Like all the best you are left wanting more.  I’m a fan of Willy Porter’s as a gritty folk blues troubadour, but pairing him with Carmen Nickerson’s vocals creates something else, greater than the sum of the individual parts.  The best of moments come when you are played the best music you’ve never heard.  Here’s hoping this is the start of longstanding rich partnership and a beginning.