Album Review by Vai Thomas
The great Willie Dixon once said of blues music, "the blues are the true facts of life expressed in words and song, inspiration, feeling, and understanding," and it has never rung more true than it does now. The unabashed nature of blues music, elegantly purposeful with a touch orf rebellion, sets it apart, paving the way for the birth of numerous sub-genres in the contemporary realm. Extolling the best of blues' traits, Award-winning American singer-songwriter Jennifer Porter has crafted a gem of an album in her upcoming release, 'Yes, I Do!'
Comprising eight tracks and crafted with arrangements and melodic structure capable of standing the test of time, "Yes, I Do!" boasts an enviable lineup of instrumentalists, including Porter's own vocal prowess and energetic piano playing. Joining her on this newest project are friend and Grammy nominee, C.J. Chenier, and Grammy winner Cindy Cashdollar, along with bandmates, guitarist George Naha, bassist Damon Banks, and drummer Dana Packard. Steve Jankowski, Doug DeHayes, and Randy Andos round out the group on horns. Given that the theme resonates around the various forms of love—the healthy, the unrequited, the shameless, the tender, among others—it is apt that the magical powers of the blues and contemporary jazz were enlisted to create "Yes, I Do!" The very first track, titled "Before We Call It A Day," written in C Major, is a supremely upbeat demonstrative teaser to kickstart proceedings, featuring lyrics along the lines of "Time is short but hope is long, let’s have a hell of a night before we call it a day." Fiery saxophone interludes by Doug DeHays are a highlight of the number. Porter nails her low notes with glassy perfection. Then comes the title track "Yes, I Do," crafted in Bb major, arranged in the manner of a not-so-usual hybrid form between traditional blues and a power ballad. Nevertheless, it is executed with sheer prowess, bound to make the listener groove to its rhythm, with the guitars acting as a most able foil to Porter’s vibratos, executed over lyrics such as “Every wish I’d ever wished was wrapped up in you ‘cause I love you…” and “My charming funny honeybee, your kisses knock me to my knees, so give me sugar and get humming with me.”
Next comes "Over You," which transitions further into the contemporary ballad zone with an infusion of gospel delivered over a propelling bassline that oozes with stability and oomph. The melodic topline is instantly capable of lodging itself into the listener’s long-term memory. Another gem, "All I Needed Was You" gets back to the first track’s upbeat blues zone, dreamily themed around the highs of romance, sonically evocative of the likes of Fats Domino. It features Porter’s own funky piano rendition over her fiery scats and bends, with lyrics such as “Take what little faith I still have rattling around…. I’ll just believe in you.”
"Don’t Worry No More" is delivered in a semi-improvisatory form over an immensely virtuosic arrangement that’s contemporary funk with a drum groove that is as tap-worthy as it comes over its bassline—a perfect equilibrium is attained between nonchalant swag and enigmatic depth, given it’s themed around a sober morning conversation between two lovers. "Lucky Dust," on the other hand, is rendered in compound meter, and carries on the melodic legacy of "Over You" while building up in terms of intensity within arrangement. It extols the fiery nature of the blues over themes that are at once metaphorical and down-to-earth, giving it a wistfully delightful touch. Throughout it all, Porter’s powerful dynamic range and versatility are the glue that holds and spearheads the album’s themes together, aided superbly by its roster of Grammy-nominated musicians and engineers.
At a duration spanning around thirty minutes, "Yes, I Do!" is a sparklingly, delightful addition to the New Year and, without a doubt, a fine way to kickstart your 2024’s "blues/roots artists to watch" playlist. Jennifer Porter and gang have showcased why the blues are still as relevant as ever, and with lyrical themes demonstrating the varying form and nature of romance, the album is a winner all the way!
For more information on Jennifer Porter and updates on "Yes, I Do", please visit her website.
About Jennifer Porter
Jennifer Porter is an award-winning musician, actor and screenwriter. A musician's musician blessed with a beautiful voice, Jennifer has performed a repertoire that spans from Jazz and Blues to Country and Opera. She has sung with Classical and Jazz Orchestras, including the world-famous Glenn Miller Orchestra. At heart though, Jennifer considers herself a roots musician, and is still most at home singing at the piano while banging out an old Blues tune in a red-hot 88 style.
Jennifer has recorded nine albums to date, and will be releasing her newest, "Yes, I Do." Her internationally critically-acclaimed album, Sun Come And Shine, recorded with legendary drummer and music director Bernard Purdie, was released in June 2021. Jennifer was joined on this sensational project by Grammy winners Christian McBride and Cindy Cashdollar and Grammy nominees Rob Paparozzi and C.J. Chenier. The title track from Sun Come And Shine received a 2021 We Are The Music Makers award for Best Roots/Americana/Blues song. In this same competition, Jennifer was also nominated for best Soul Song, Best Adult Contemporary Song, and Best Female Artist. Sun Come And Shine hit #1 on The Roots Music Reports Jazzy Blues Album Charts and stayed in the top 10 for ten weeks. Seven songs from the album also reached the top 10 on Roots Music Report’s Jazzy Blues Song Charts. Four songs from the album reached the top 10 (#2 being the highest position) on Portugal's Blues Radio Charts, with Portugal's Smooth FM naming Sun Come And Shine Album Of The Week. Her song Satin Shoes, from the album, reached #2 on Top Chart’s UK Radio Top 100 Blues Songs. Jennifer’s previous album, These Years, which also received international critical-acclaim, was recorded with Grammy-winning producer Jay Newland and included special guests C.J. Chenier and Country Music Hall Of Famer, Charlie McCoy. These Years earned Jennifer a 2020 We Are The Music Makers award for Best Roots/Americana/Blues Album and a 2019 Independent Music Network award for Best Female Crossover Artist. She was nominated for four other Independent Music Network awards including Favorite Country Female Artist, and Favorite Female Mainstream Artist. The album hit #88 on itunes Top 100 Albums chart in The Netherlands and #1 on New Music Weekly’s Country Charts. Jennifer’s jazz album Easy Living (2014), with Grammy-winning producer, Lawrence Manchester, was nominated for a 2015 Independent Music Award in the Jazz With Vocals category, and was heard on radio stations around the United States, including KJAZZ in Los Angeles, WWOZ in New Orleans, and Public Radio International’s Jazz After Hours. The album hit #35 on itunes Top Jazz Albums chart in Germany.
Jennifer is also an esteemed actor, with more than 90 professional stage credits, including Patsy Cline in Always...Patsy Cline. She starred in, and composed and performed the film score for BALLAD OF IDA AND DOOB (1999) and wrote, starred in, and composed and performed the film scores for the critically acclaimed MR. BARRINGTON (2003), and the multiple award-winning 40 WEST (2011) for which Jennifer received awards for acting, original score, original song, and original screenplay. Jennifer holds a second-degree black belt in Tai Jujitsu, and has advanced training in Kali and Jeet Kun Do. In 1989 Jennifer was the first vocalist in Maine inducted into the prestigious musical honor society, Pi Kappa Lambda, which recognizes excellence in both musical performance and academics. In her spare time she enjoys gardening, and learning new languages. Jennifer is a proud voting member of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, SAG / AFTRA, and Actors Equity Association.