Bob Delevante: Porchlight


By Mark Reiter

The hip call this stuff alternative country. What a fucking shame that this is underground. Porchlight deserves to be heard—for all its subtly and childlike poignancy—it deserves to be heard. Records like this are the reason that country has a chance. So far away from the NASCAR soundtrack crap that passes for Nashville country right now, Delevante’s first solo offering is everything country has forgotten about itself—honesty, simplicity and intelligence.

Country fans will find all the ornaments of the genre—brilliant pedal steel lines, soulful harmonica, drawling vocals—swirling through these Flying Burrito Brothers cum Rave-Ups gems. For the old schoolers, this isn’t Hank Williams- and Johnny Cash-abandoned—it’s George Jones- and Willie Nelson-updated. And while all the honky-tonk is in place—there’s also a depth here that even the most down-and-out stuff lacks. “Bless the life that we live now/may it be sweet/may it be long.” Such yearning is usually reserved for gospel discs long out of print. For Delevante, it’s just what’s on his mind. Country, sure. But it’s also Nashville soul.

Delevante’s compositions are cradled by very honest and stripped down production. Vocals and guitar do most of the work and the rhythm section (sporting E-Street alumnus Garry Tallent) is first rate and super tasteful. For real country spirit and desperation, I’ll take Delevante’s slower moments over the rockers if only for their to-the-bone sincerity. But his tendency to rock a bit is convincing and spirited and never given over to the sort of boogie-metal his peers seem incapable of escaping. Almost everything he attempts is brilliant.

Porchlight smells like an ashtray and tastes like beer. It feels like the morning after. Make no mistake friends, this is the real shit.

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