Being the crossroads between folk, blues and country, the “roots” genre gives artists a wide catalog of tunes to cover. Not only that, but the genre lends itself to surprising cross-genre performances (Lissie provided a good example with her “Bad Romance”). Not surprising, then, that Mason Porter, a West Chester, PA-based roots/Americana quintet, chose to release an album of covers, Story of the Rifle, for their second long-player.
The album begins strongly with a laid-back version of Mississippi John Hurt’s “My Creole Belle.” Their easy, open arrangement recalls sitting outside around a campfire on a hot summer’s night, sounding deliciously impromptu. The frantic shuffle of The White Stripes’ “Hotel Yorba” shows how the band soars when on cross-genre interpretations. They infuse Bob Dylan’s “Girl from the North Country” with a fully realized regret that Dylan only hints at in his original.
The difficulty with the album comes when the band plays it safe. They add nothing new to “Dark as a Dungeon,” “Frankie and Johnny,” or “Long Black Veil.” They sound so similar to the many other versions that they come across as filler. Contrast this with their approach to “Corinna, Corinna,” where their arrangement allows for some subtle instrumental interplay.
Speaking of instrumental prowess, the lap steel requires a special note. Often, lap steel players, seeking to impress the audience with their skill, play over top of everyone else. Brad Hinton’s playing, while impressive, sensitively complements the songs instead of bowling them over. Well done.
Story of the Rifle Tracklist:
01. My Creole Belle (Mississippi John Hurt cover)
02. Wayfaring Stranger (Traditional cover)
03. Hotel Yorba (The White Stripes cover)
04. Frankie and Johnny (Traditional cover)
05. Girl from the North Country (Bob Dylan cover) [Download MP3]
06. Dark Hollow (Traditional cover)
07. Corinna, Corinna (Traditional cover)
08. Long Black Veil (Danny Dill and Marijohn Wilkin cover)
09. Spike Driver Blues/If I Had Possession Over Judgment Day (Traditional/Robert
10. Dark as a Dungeon (Merle Travis cover)
Check out more Mason Porter at their website.