2021 – Blue Heart Records
By Phillip Smith; Sep. 18, 2021
I’m so excited to see Tony Holiday continue his Porch Sessions project. I loved the first installment and was very happy when I learned there would be a follow up. Recorded in various locations which include Memphis TN, Bristol VA, Fort Collins CO, Clarksdale MS, Anaheim CA, San Jose CA, and Jackson TN, it’s quite the pleasure to hear the results of Holiday’s ‘raw with no overdubs’ approach. It’s very reminiscent of the early twentieth century Lomax field recordings which captured those early blues artists we came to know and adore. Dedicated to Holiday’s friend and mentor the great James Harman who passed earlier this year, this sixteen-track collection features an all-star lineup of blues artists: Victor Wainwright, Willie Buck, A.J. Fullerton, Bobby Rush, Watermelon Slim, James Harman, Jon Lawton, Lurrie Bell, Richard “Rip Lee” Pryor, Johnny Burgin, Rae Gordon, Ben Rice, Mark Hummel & Dennis Gruenling, J/D. Taylor, Southern Avenue, Kim Wilson, Kid Ramos, and Kid Andersen.
Porch Sessions Volume 2 hits the ground swinging with Victor Wainwright pounding the keys and singing Jerry McCain’s “She’s Tuff”. It’s great to hear Wainwright and Holiday jam together on piano and harmonica while bassist Terrance Greyson and drummer Andrew McNeil makes for a tight-as-hell rhythm section. “Change is Inevitable” is a poignant and wonderfully delivered song, with A.J. Fullerton on vocals/guitar and Jake Friel on harmonica. It’s always a pleasure to hear Watermelon Slim, and his cover of “Smokestack Lightning” is a delight. He masterfully makes this a creation of his own. “Going to Court 2”, with James Harmon on vocals, Kid Ramos and Landon Stone on guitars, and Tony Holiday on harp, is so good, it pretty much transports me right to the scene with every listen. Jon Lawton (vocals/guitar) and Andrew Ali (harmonica) deliver an exquisite dose of stripped-down Delta Blues with Lawton’s original piece “Go”. This one really makes me think of RL Burnside. I dig the twangy groove Johnny Burgin pours on top of “Bad Bad Girl”. Backed by Holiday on harp, Landon Stone on guitar and Kid Andersen on bass, this Burgin original is a lot of fun. Rae Gordon’s voice is such a dynamic one and sounds so good as she belts out “Find Me When the Sun Goes Down”. I’m also quite drawn to J.D. Taylor’s “Family Tree”. When I hear him sing “I ain’t got nobody ‘round. I ain’t got no family tree”, I hear the blues in its purest form. When Southern Avenue performs their amazing stripped-down version of “Peace Will Come”, I can’t help but smile. It’s such a good song. I remember when they originally released it on their first album, just hearing it made things a little bit better with its positive message in a world of conflict.
Tony Holiday’s Porch Sessions Volume 2 is a very enjoyable listen. I’m already looking forward to Volume 3.
Available on Bandcamp