Looking forward to Porretta
I was listening today to the excellent interview with original Muscle Shoals Swamper Jimmy Johnson on the Right Track soul radio show and it's whetted my appetite for this year's Porretta Soul Festival. I must admit that at first I was unexcited by this year's line up, which focuses on the musicians behind the Muscle Shoals sound. But having heard Jimmy's reminiscences about the classic tracks recorded at the Fame studio it may be that my doubts were unfounded. Along with fellow Swampers and Fame gang members David Hood, Clayton Ivey, Will McFarlane and Mickey Buckins there's not much
doubt that the backing band this year will be excellent. After all they were the men behind classic tracks by the likes of Clarence Carter, Percy Sledge, Wilson Pickett, Etta James, Aretha Franklin, James and Bobby Purify, Arthur Conley, Bobby Womack and Candi Staton, among many others. The problem when the line up was originally announced was that there was a shortage of great
soul singers on the bill.
Fortunately the festival's organiser Graziano has put that right to an extent with a number of big, or fairly big, names, who should create something pretty special. There's Denise Lasalle, who is worth the trip in itself, regular Porretta favourite the ever-glamorous Toni Green, and Vaneese Thomas, daughter of Rufus. Donnie Fritts, another Muscle Shoals regular should also be worth a look, as should Guitar Shorty and Chick Rogers, although I am less sure about Jimmy Hall, formerly of Wet Willie, and I don't know much about Carla Russell, Jerry Jones and Chilly Bill Rankin.
I visited Muscle Shoals last year and enjoyed my visit round the iconic Fame studio so it will be interesting to see and hear the musicians behind so many wonderful records in person. But regardless of the overall quality I'm sure this year's Porretta will be a great experience as ever. Over the years I've seen many of the true soul greats perform there, including Solomon Burke. J Blackfoot, the Wiggins brothers, Irma Thomas, Isaac Hayes, Rufus Thomas and Oscar Toney Jr, and it's always a fantastic experience. Who of us who were there will forget David Hudson singing acapella in the Califfo Irish bar after the show? Let's hope we will have similar experiences this year. I'm sure we will. Here are a couple of photos from my visit to Muscle Shoals.