Plenty of local and regional marquee names helped bring out the crowd on Sunday night at C-Boy’s Heart & Soul to help get the late Chris Porter’s final recordings finished and released: Alejandro Escovedo, Will Johnson, Aaron Lee Tasjan, the Mastersons, John Moreland. All could headline shows in bigger rooms than this.
But while their short individual sets were a big part of the draw, the real focus of the night was an extended set of Porter’s own songs, delivered with love and passion by a handful of his closest friends. Sunday’s event was the latest of several memorials to the singer-songwriter, who was killed along with bassist Mitchell Vandenburg in a North Carolina highway crash while on tour in October.
Working with Porter was “one of the most joyous recording experiences I’ve had in my life,” said Johnson, who produced the songwriter’s two most recent albums. Johnson, who opened the evening with a few of his own songs, returned to kick off the tribute portion of the night, singing a beautiful duet with Porter’s good friend Bonnie Whitmore (who then did the same with Austin songwriter Graham Weber).
Husband-and-wife Sarah Green and Sam Gunderson came from Alabama, Porter’s home state before he moved to Austin a few years ago, to sing a couple of his songs. Porter’s parents also came in from Alabama to attend the event. Traveling from Tulsa, Okla., was John Calvin Abney, whose solo acoustic rendition of the title track from Porter’s album “This Red Mountain” was especially moving.
Austin musicians Garner Sloan and Hank Erwin brought up drummer Adam Nurre, the lone survivor of the North Carolina crash, to accompany them on the Porter songs they sang. Nurre, still recovering from serious injuries, locked right in on both numbers, and the crowd cheered loudly when his name was announced.
Nurre has two more area gigs this week — Tuesday at Poodie’s in Spicewood with Erwin and Thursday at the White Horse with Sloan — before he and Erwin head out on a tour that’ll bring Nurre back to his parents’ home in Ohio for the holidays.
Those who were unable to attend on Sunday but would like to help get Porter’s unreleased recordings issued can donate via PayPal to firstname.lastname@example.org.
[Correction: The names of performers Garner Sloan and Hank Erwin are transposed in the video.]