Bit your quitchen about how all that big country radio plays is crap when all you have to do is root around a little bit to find an embarrassment of riches when it comes to the kind of kick ass independent country music we get to enjoy these days. Cody Jinks, Tyler Childers, Mike and the Moonpies, and on and on—your only real issue is how to find enough hours in the day to listen to everything.
But one gaping hole if we’re taking a serious assessment has been those soulful duets once sung to the rafters of the Ryman by legacy pairings such as Conway and Loretta, George and Tammy, and Dolly and Kenny. Sure, there’s plenty of men and women doing country music right these days, just usually not together. You can’t replace the perspective and soul captured in a great male/female duet, and that is what Porter Union is here to pay forward. Of course there are other male/female duos out there, especially in the always-nebulous “Americana” realm. But few if any are keeping it country in as dedicated of a manner as Porter Union.
Comprised of husband and wife Cole Michael Porter and Kendra Porter, they met in their hometown bar and soon became fast friends and singing partners. But this isn’t a Captain and Tenille bit where they gaze lovingly into each other’s eyes while singing other people’s songs. Both Cole and Kendra are respected singer/songwriters, and simply the strength of composition would be enough to get you to pay attention to them, even if a decade of harmonizing together in front of fiddle and steel guitar arrangements didn’t draw you in like it does.
And the music of Porter Union is not all swooning ballads and intimate coos. Love is work dammit. There’s bumps in the road, and for some, it’s a brick wall they run right into. All of these emotions, the ups and the downs of love and relationships, they’re all crooned out by this couple in quality songs with two part harmonies that draw the emotion out of the verse better than going solo, until loneliness is the mood sought, and one or the other steps back.
You get a good snootfull of all of this in their new record Loved & Lost, released independently, and in the wake of appearing on the USA Network’s singing competition Real Country where they were hand selected by Travis Tritt to compete on his team—a pretty big ringing endorsement from a country legend.
Similar to their 2017 self-titled debut, Porter Union fields a bevy of country songs with no wiggle room or compromise with what that “country” definition is. You get those intimate moments you want from a record like this, and they comprise some of the best songs from the effort like “To Have and To Hold,” and “I’ve Got You Covered.” It’s the assurance songs like these contain that make them resonate with you and yours. But if you’re looking for heartache, Porter Union pours that on too, and was smart to name this record after the track “Loved & Lost,” because you’ll be hard pressed to find anything stronger.
And again, performance is one thing, composition is another. Loved & Lost is one well-written song after another. “Laundry” seems like just your average song about everyday gripes from a woman’s perspective … until the twist comes. “Curb Appeal” with Kayla Ray brings that double shot of sass to drive the message home.
Like we often tend to say about albums that stretch beyond ten tracks these days, a few of the songs result in a lull in the high level of quality set by the rest of the record. The upbeat stanzas of “Looking For Love” catch you a little off guard, even though the half time portions help counterbalance it a bit. The last song on the record “Where Are You” feels like it needed a few more minutes in the oven. And even though Kendra Porter is a great singer and proves it on many occasions on Love & Lost, the well-written “Pennies” has something a little off in the arrangement that doesn’t work with her tone entirely right.
But beyond whatever gripes you want to give going through this record with a fine-toothed comb, there’s undoubtedly a gratefulness that swells in the heart that is inspired by being in the audience of Porter Union, and the classic and timeless magic that is made when two voices become one.
1 3/4 Guns Up (8/10)
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