Folkadelphia Session: Field Report

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If you haven’t been listening to Milwaukee’s Field Report by now, here’s your chance to make it up with no hard feelings from me (but do it quick). There are only a handful of musicians and bands that I nebulously define as having “that Folkadelphia sound,” meaning that our radio show was created to support and share music exactly like this, like Field Report is making. These “Folkadelphia sounding” bands bridge the gaps not only between various folk music traditions, past and present, but also between other genres, technologies, and artistic disciplines. The end result is an inventive amalagamation of ideas that push at the boundaries of what we think of as being a songwriter and being a folk musician.

I first met Christopher Porterfield, Field Report’s singer and writer, about two years ago when his previous musical outfit, Conrad Plymouth, was visiting Philadelphia. Even in their stripped down band configuration and playing a different repertoire of songs, it was apparent that Porterfield was on a path to becoming a singular songwriter. In Field Report’s debut eponymous album, intricate and striking narratives, full of rich characterization, literary allusions, and philosophical musings are balanced by a fairly hook-laden approach to keep the listeners’ attention without getting too heavy-handed. Painted over with a nostalgic brush, Porterfield’s singing and the band’s music hit all of the right emotional points- seething loneliness, uncertain introspection, all which often builds to an impassioned head. Listening to the band, you get the sense that you’re living through Porterfield and his characters’ memories, faded at the edges by the passage of time, imbued with imagination’s coloring. Porterfield tells the stories as he remembers them, not how they really happened.

Since our session with Porterfield’s previous band, we have seen the advent of Field Report, the release of their debut record, and a handful of stops in the city for live shows (including last year’s XPoNential Music Festival). Here for our latest Folkadelphia Session, we welcomed Field Report, who were playing as a trio (with Ben Lester on steel guitar, Shane Leonard on drums, banjo, and vocals, and Porterfield) to the XPN Performance Studio before their concert on March 29th at the Tin Angel with Sara Watkins (who will be featured as our next week’s Folkadelphia Session). The session consists of two tracks from the band’s debut and two new tracks – a taste of what’s to come from them.