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The Coal Porters

Find The One – 2012 (Prima)

Reviewed by Ron Hart

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As a U.S. citizen, Sid Griffin helped develop one of California's most influential music scenes in the Paisley Underground alongside groups like Green On Red, the Dream Syndicate and Rain Parade as chief member of The Long Ryders, the country-endeared arm of the movement.

Now a resident of London, Griffin is currently thriving as a key component of England's own alt.-country happening as leader of the excellently christened The Coal Porters. For the group's fifth album, Sid and his current lineup of guitarist Neil Robert Herd, fiddler Carly Frey, banjo man John Breese and bassist Tali Trow link up with British folk veteran John Wood. And in the same studio where The Clash cut "London Calling" and Queen created "A Night at the Opera," the Porters turn in their finest work yet.

Released on the heels of Prima's must-have expanded edition of the Ryders' 1984 masterpiece "Native Sons," there's never been a better time for Griffin to strike with a truly exceptional Coal Porters record. And indeed they do deliver on "Find the One" as Wood draws from the same root he used to make tea on Nick Drake's "Five Leaves Left" and "Solid Air" by John Martyn as the group makes its transition into a full-fledged acoustic string band complete.

"And now for our old friend Sid Griffin," chimes BBC Radio legend Brian Matthew for a priceless cameo pre-sell for the Griffin-penned Ask Me Again, a quintessential example of the rustic, almost Dawg Music-esque direction this album takes through the course of these dozen tracks. Further "Find" finds include a song about the Underground Railroad called Hush You Babe that features some great guitar work from guest musician and longtime Wood accomplice Richard Thompson as well as a pair of illuminating covers of David Bowie's Heroes and Paint It, Black by The Rolling Stones that transform both AOR staples into fireside jamborees with such a relaxed feel for the original compositions that transforming them into country-folk singalongs seems almost effortless.

"Find the One" is an album as defining for the Coal Porters as "Native" was for the Long Ryders. And even though he creates it an ocean away, the blue grass of Griffin's old Kentucky home is never too far away in the melodies of these incredible songs.