|Jennifer Porter is a superb songstress with a uniquely seductive voice. Her lyrical and musical creativity has allowed her to shape a wide variety of styles, from opera to blues, into her own elegant personal vision. With her ninth album, Yes, I Do, Porter highlights her ability to create a lyrical masterpiece of bluesy Americana and deliver it in a silky-smooth vocal style that underscores the eloquence of her music.
“Yes, I Do” follows Porter’s success with her 2021 release, Sun Come And Shine, for which the title track received a “We Are The Music Makers” award for Best Roots/Americana/Blues song. This latest release brings back the talents of Grammy winner Cindy Cashdollar and Grammy nominee C.J. Chenier. Porter created six of the eight delightful songs here, and blended her own sparkling style into two traditional blues covers. She handles the vocals in her inimitable honeyed style, and plays piano or Wurlitzer or Hammond B3, sometimes all three, on each cut.
A rollicking “Before We Call It A Day” opens the session, upbeat in mood and lyrics, as Porter blends lead and backup vocals with honky-tonk piano into a vibrant message: “I wanna race the clock, kiss the moon / Kick up my heels, and work the room / And have a hell of a night / Before we call it a day.” The title track, “Yes I Do,” follows, mellowing the mood with Porter again singing her own backup in front of her Wurlitzer and B3 lines. Her gentle vocals accentuate the romantic offering: “I’ll spend my time just making rhymes into these / Hopeful little lines / And leave this lonely broken heartache behind. / Cause I love you, I love you, yes I do.”
“Over You,” a softly romantic ballad follows, enhanced by vocals in the upper register that build a haunting love song into an ethereal presence. “All I Needed Was You” sparks a lovely sentiment behind Chenier’s New Orleans fire and Porter’s rousing piano: “For all my dreams to come true / All I needed was you.” “Don’t Worry No More” opens with a flourish of horns that leads to Porter’s bluesy tale fueled by her piano and B3. Once again, her vocal charms provide a soft counterpoint to the toughness of the lyrical message: “Baby, don’t worry no more / See me walkin’ out the door.”
The Leroy Carr classic 1928 blues “How Long” gets Porter’s subtle vocal treatment with her classy piano and a sweet flugelhorn solo adding unique flavor. “Lucky Dust” opens with a Dixieland swagger with Porter and her piano leading the way through a joyous take that ends with another crackling, jazzy flourish. The sprightly closer feels just right as a finale for this adventurous set; a lighthearted, innovative cover of the 1925 Stuart Balcom and Bessie Smith chestnut, “Good Ol’ Wagon,” with just Porter caressing the piano and Randy Andos’ easy-thumping tuba.
You wouldn’t guess it from listening, but among Porter’s generous list of accomplishments (actor, screenwriter, composer) is her interest in martial arts. She holds a second-degree black belt in Tai Jujitsu and has advanced training in Kali and Jeet Kun Do. What do they add to this thoroughly enjoyable music? As the legendary lyricist Sammy Cahn once put it: “Ain’t that a kick in the head?”
Jim White (a former music writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette & now writes the Blues Roadhouse)