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Porter Harp & Friends

The first element that will catch the full and undivided attention of your ear on, “Mostly Fiction”, are Tara Roth’s deceptively youthful pop vocals. There is a catchy pop hook on almost every track of this most excellent album. But, if you take the time to listen a little closer (i.e. more than a couple of times through) you will start to truly hear Tara’s cleverly disguised pop vocals telling you a slightly different story on every track that ultimately reveals her post graduate level, and well-practiced, creative English writing skills. If this band does not become as huge as I think they should be; I would gladly look forward to reading anything authored by this very talented wordsmith and singer-songwriter. Oh, and for gawds sake she plays drums in addition to being a very respectable rhythm guitar and key player too. Good Lord, where does her talent end?

Jim Roth is once again at his best on “Mostly Fiction”. Playing multiple instruments and fully displaying how far he has come and matured as a musician since the hazy days of the late ‘80s. Fair warning, gushing fanboy monologue to follow here: I have worshipped at the altar of Jim Roth since discovering Voodoo Gearshift back in Iowa City during the late ‘80s. At that time, Iowa had a surprisingly cool underground scene of musicians and bands eschewing the ‘required’ elements of getting a paying gig back in the day. “So, you boys have Johnny B. Goode and Sweet Home Alabama in your set?” Uh, no. Enter two bands that I would argue were the kings of the Iowa scene back in the day: number 1) House of Large Sizes (who are still going strong) and number 2) Voodoo Gearshift fronted by Mr. Roth.

During this time, HOLS were perfecting the 2-3 minute perfect punk pop song, w/ Dave Diebler simply plugging his SG straight into his 50 watt Marshall combo (w/ ZERO bs added – a la Angus Young) and proceeded to kick your ass with his perfect, high energy, catchy punk pop melodies drilled further into your ribcage by his wife and partner of 25+ years on bass, Barb Schilf, pogoing along with an audience that literally climbed the rafters – an audience that would often take ludicrously dangerous stage dive shots at the band and crowd of Gabe’s Oasis back in the day.

On the other hand, you had Jim and Voodoo Gearshift. Jim was and has always been a very gifted guitar player. In my humble opinion, he is easily one of the top 100 living guitar players on the planet. And he wore his influences on his sleeve – back in the day – like most of us have at one point. Obviously well versed in the school of Jimmy Page (among others), Mr. Roth would simply blow your head off with his Frankenstein Strat plugged into a mesa boogie combo (as essentially his distortion pedal) and slaved his signal to a full on classic Marshall Stack. Accompanied by some of the most ludicriously talented rhythm sections I have ever seen to date (25+ years now). Many ear drums are still suffering from the fallout (mine gladly included).

So where does this rambling review finally make its point? Ok, now that Jim is a full on well-seasoned and established rock star with Built to Spill; he no longer has to ‘prove’ himself to anyone. There is no ‘flash’ for the sake of being flash on this record. Full stop. Yes, I know it’s cliché to say so – but the notes Jim plays as well as the ones he doesn’t are as equally important. For selfish reasons, I will beg him to be ‘flash’ on my next recording – but that is completely irrelevant. What is relevant is that this entire record is recorded on 2” 16 trk analog tape. Please read that again. I call this specific nerd recording point out because I know and love the machine quite well that the Roths have installed in their private studio; it is essential to making records like this in 2013. Listen closely to the tempo changes that ‘flow’ naturally as well as the tiny audio mistakes left in the mix as well as the barely audible, but glorious, tape hiss… In short, our current recording process will come full circle kids. Mark my words. Even the greatest disco / pop records of the late ‘70s and very early ‘80s were 100% analog. Simply put, even the drums were *real* back in the day. Ok. Gotcha, I’m losing you on yet another tangent. Book mark that last part for a later rant :)

Jim and Tara Roth have formed a partnership most musicians would give their right eye for: making very high quality music with your life partner, wife, husband, best friend, i.e. the one you truly love. Trust me, that kind of relationship is as close to the spiritual sense of musical nirvana that you will ever get.

If I were in charge of the music industry for a day, ‘Space’, track 9 from “Mostly Fiction” followed by track 5, ‘not here’, would be blasting out of every car stereo in America and beyond as I type. The Apostrophes should be – deserve to be – massive.

PS – my personal fav track is no. 12,'broken record'