Multi-instrumentalist Sid Griffin has over three decades of experience in the music industry, so it’s no surprise that he’s back with British-American bluegrass band The Coal Porters releasing yet another wild record. According to the frontman himself, The Coal Porters “are five musicians from four countries playing three-chord acoustic folk for two reasons; they wanna make their mark on the world, and they wanna know they’re ALIVE.” On their latest record, No. 6, the band’s goal to feel is apparent as they take a welcome departure from their usual steady sound, weaving elements of different genres into one another. Though the high-energy bluegrass is still booming, The Coal Porters include folk ballads, old-timey story songs, and classic rock covers.
Opening the album is “The Day The Last Ramone Died,” a tribute track to punk rock band The Ramones, running forward with fast-paced instrumentation and imagery of putting on a leather jacket in memory of Tommy Ramone, the last original Ramone member who passed in 2014. Next, “Save Me From The Storm” is a catchy, old-fashioned sailor song with echoing hook harmony and storytelling through lyrical songwriting, as Sid passionately sings “We built these temples to convince us that we’re not alone/Tear down this humble shack and turn this skin to bone”. Later, the record’s lone instrumental track, “Chopping Garlic,” spins and flails with fervor. Starting with a sophisticated, anxious beat, it quickly emerges as a rapid dance rhythm courtesy of constantly evolving strings arrangements from Kerenza Peacock’s lush violin to Sid’s mandolin to several dobros.
Veering from the album’s positive nature, “Unhappy Anywhere” is an example of Sid’s sweetened vocal quality and sensitive, complex instrumentation that the band delivers with grace. True to their British-American bluegrass roots, “The Old Style Prison Break” takes the band back to outlaw country with quick folk beats and full, multi-part choruses. Ending No. 6 is the band’s cover of “Another Girl, Another Planet” by English rock band The Only Ones. Wildly different in all ways but meaning, The Coal Porters’ version is warm with a bittersweet quality. When the band’s voices come together to sing the title, the sound is celestial.