My tastes in music are nothing if not eclectic. The first track on The Coal Porters’ seventh album, “Durango,” is a happy, bluegrassy jaunt titled, “Let’s Say Goodbye Like We Said Hello.” The lyrics aren’t graphic—they’re all about sunshine and fun—but it describes about the best kind of one-night stand imaginable: One that makes you smile forever. This sets the tone for this banjo-and-guitar driven record. Even when it gets serious about slavery on the gospel-tinged “No More Chains,” it keeps the conversation light. This is due in no small part to the skills of lead singer, mandolin player, and driving force Sid Griffin (formerly of the Long Ryder band), whose smooth voice makes this album eminently listenable. A standout track for me, being an old Deadhead and a fan of Old And In The Way, is Peter Rowan’s duet with the band’s fiddler, Carly Frey, on Moonlight Midnight—a classic song that I can hear a million times and never get sick of. And then there’s the brilliant cover of Neil Young’s “Like a Hurricane,” my favorite Neil tune (other than Powderfinger), which turns the anthem into a four-minute love skip. A complete transformation of the source material.
This is what you get when you mix bluegrass with Los Angeles: A country album that sounds neither dated nor regional, and can be enjoyed by anyone.
For fans of: The Grateful Dead’s Reckoning album; New Riders of the Purple Sage; Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young; and The Flying Burrito Brothers/Gram Parsons.