It’s funny how things can be cyclical. Joe Firstman lit out on the old dog out of Charlotte, North Carolina in his early 20’s for the bright lights of Los Angeles. Leaving the Dirty South for La La Land. I find it ironic because 2009’s El Porto is a return to roots of sorts for Joe. The piano has been traded in ( for the most part, but not completely) , metaphorically speaking, for the guitar. The result is a more earthy and organic sound than 70’s sounding disjointed rock that was on DrAma & Fell Swoops. It isn’t country, but it’s not far off, ya’ll. More folk than rock. It’s a return to thoughtful and introspective songwriting and yet another musical makeover for Firstman.
“The One That Makes You Happy” isn’t just the best song on this record, it’s holding a reserve spot near the top of the rotation for the Rhino Records Greatest Hits package. Joe’s voice sounding so sincere over a slow groove that’s as warm and smooth as a midnight glass of Maker’s Mark in front of a roaring winter fire. Yeah…it’s that good. The music is slowed down, like a southern drawl allowing songs like “Crowded Town” & “Only For A While” to breathe. While the songs are short and concise (no song clocking in longer than 3:35) they feel like finished thoughts. They feel as long as they were meant to be (as confusing as that may sound). While the stripped down, sparse musicality of “Marlene And Her Sisters” and “Mr.Winston” in no way resemble the opus like qualities of “The War Of Women”-era Firstman, they grow on you after a few plays and soon thereafter you will find yourself humming the tune. An album that fits better on the front porch than the Sunset Strip. This was the album and era where Joe really set his mind to be a road dog and perfect his craft in every small shit hole he could play, in front of the loud whiskey soaked drunks (guilty as charged). A corner had been turned and El Porto was a first step in the right direction of his next musical journey.
other Joe Firstman on this blog;