Taking center stage at Wolf Trap tonight with only his Guild guitar, his six- and 12-string talent and his smoothly robust voice for company, singer-songwriter Willy Porter invites audiences to journey with him through life.
Mr. Porter, however, is not a folk artist. He classifies himself as a bit of musical “mutt.”
“The songs I write are rock songs. If you sing and play a guitar in the solo idiom, people think you are a folk singer, but I am not really a bard or a storyteller drawing from the woes of the day, so I don’t fit into that genre either,” Mr. Porter says from his Milwaukee studio.
On the road, the Willy Porter band has opened for artists such as Tori Amos, Jeff Beck, Sting and Paul Simon. Mr. Porter and his band have opened twice for 1970s rock legend Jethro Tull (as Mr. Porter will tonight, solo). The band has received standing ovations from audiences delighted with its brazen simplicity.
When not playing with his four-piece rock ensemble, the Wisconsin native takes his act on the road solo, bringing with him a vivacity matched only by his mastery of the guitar. He can captivate an audience as completely as can an entire rock band.
The core of Willy Porter — his music, his nature, his lyrics — can be summed up with one word — approachable.
“I knew from the time I was five I was going to be in music on some level,” Mr. Porter says. “I grew up in a home where my folks were connoisseurs of the great pop and jazz music of the ‘40s and ‘50s. There was always music happening in the home.”
Mr. Porter is out this time in support of his fifth CD, “High Wire Live” a collection of his muses recorded live.
“When I am writing I become a passenger and let it be what it is going to be,” Mr. Porter says. “As I write each song tells me what it wants to be. I am a student of that process, trying to find unique things to observe and write about.”
“High Wire Live” was preceded by “Dog Eared Dream” (1995), “Trees Have Soul” (1990; re-released 1996) “Falling Forward” (1999) and the self-named “Willy Porter” (2002), each album taking the listener another step along the journey of his musical growth.
This includes an expanding family, with two children, one 3 and another 2 months.
That blossoming family, along with roots that go deep into the marshland of Milwaukee, will keep Willy Porter firmly planted in the great North, a location that suits him better than such music centers as New York or Los Angeles.
Jethro Tull has released more than 40 albums that move from classic blues, folk and progressive rock music to include jazz and Far Eastern influences. While Tull’s music is impossible to sort into any one rock genre, band musicians Ian Anderson (flute, guitar, vocals), Martin Barre, Andrew Giddings, Jonathan Noyce and Doane Perry have shown that their unique blend of high-energy performance, eclectic musical styles and instrument mastery can keep rock ‘n’ roll alive for decades.