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Spins: George Porter Jr. and Runnin’ Pardners • Crying for Hope

| June 7, 2021

George Porter Jr. and Runnin’ Pardners

Crying for Hope

(Controlled Substance Sound Labs)

Bassist George Porter widely recognized as a prime mover of funk and soul music, and an ambassador of New Orleans’ treasured musical heritage since the formation of the Meters in 1965. Crying for Hope is Porter’s first album with his crew of Runnin’ Pardners since 2011’s Can’t Beat the Funk. The album has been released on marbled vinyl the color of carefree blue skies. The music reaches for sonic nirvana to match, even while some of Porter’s songs strive to exorcise worldly woes.

“Crying for Hope” is a plea for social justice in the USA that resonates with the Black Live Matter movement. The song features organ by Michael Lemmler that is reminiscent of Porter’s late Meters band brother Art Neville. Porter sings about being made to feel unwelcome at home. “We can’t let them run us out of the place where we were born,” sings Porter. “Let’s march, shout and vote.”

“Porter 13A” is taut funk that demonstrates why Porter is a revered bassist alongside titans like Bootsy Collins, and an inspiration to contemporary artists including Snarky Puppy. The song is a showcase for guitarist Chris Adkins’ melodic precision. Drummer Terrence Houston plays a string of dazzling solo fills.

“A Ladder” #3 is an expressive jazz ballad with a cosmic headspace. On the mid-tempo NOLA blues “Get Back Up,” Porter locks a blissed-out, feel-good riff with Adkins while Lemmler plays sky-high shimmering chords on Hammond organ. “Wanna Get Funky” is a mission statement with singer Mia Borders joining Porter. The musical stew is reminiscent of Sly & the Family Stone or Funkadelic.

Porter’s bass propels “I’m Barely” with a body-moving groove nodding to the Temptations’ “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg.” The gravel-voiced singer tells the tale of a rolling stone longing for the comforts and companionship of home. “Cloud Funk” is a taut boogaloo that morphs into glassy jazz textures featuring Lemmler’s twinkling electric piano. The instrumental funk fusion of “Spanish Moss” is loaded with twisted riffs and tight interplay, driven by Porter’s demented and funky bass tone.

“Just Start Groovin’” offers the cure-all prescription for the troubles of the world, with side effects including an extra measure of togetherness and harmony. All that’s required is a shift in perspective. “We can’t avoid the rain, but we can dance until it stops,” sings Porter. “When the sun comes out, we’ll shonuff be on top.”

“Taste of the Truth” offers a sublime, chilled-out soul groove. “Too Hot Too Cold” is silky R&B with a careworn story of life as a hard road. The character struggles with too much and too little, looking for a state of grace that’s “steady, even, and easy.” He hasn’t found it by the song’s end, but he can see it just a little further up the road. “You Just Got Tired” is one last message of encouragement, a sermon of love offered with Gospel fervor in the Hammond organ and dripping with George Harrison-styled slide guitar. The song promises steadfast commitment through hard times in a relationship. It’s just what Porter’s music has offered for more than 50 years.

– Jeff Elbel

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