Field Report has been five long years in the making. And the effort that Chris Porterfield, the multi-instrumentalist and mastermind behind new indie-folk group, exerted during the past half-decade is most certainly apparent on his self-titled debut.
Porterfield, whose name is actually an anagram of the band’s, has found the sweet spot between masterful attention to details and broad understanding of the breadth of a record. Musically, Field Report is dynamic and earnest, familial and familiar. Lyrically, Porterfield never employs the clichéd bounce of iambic pentameter or forces rhymes. Instead, he tells free-form stories over slowly picked acoustic guitars, piano accents and melodious, droning pedal steel that are exemplified in tracks like “I Am Not Waiting Anymore,” “Taking Alcatraz” and “Route 18.”
In the opening track “Fergus Falls,” Porterfield whispers, “I could have been an artist if I had the tools. I could have been a preacher if I suffered fools. When we move into the city I know I will have to pay my dues.” The song serves as expert example of how Porterfield manages to sing simultaneously in generics and specifics, as he tells the story of a family that must move.
In another sense, though, the line reflects Porterfield’s personal struggles making this self-titled debut. Since Wisconsin collective DeYarmond Edison disbanded in 2006, members have dispersed (musically and geographically) to form groups like Bon Iver and Megafaun, Porterfield has been forced to find himself and his sound outside of those confines and comparisons.
With Field Report, now, though, Porterfield needs not reflect or regret any longer; as the lyric goes, he’s paid his dues and established himself as a musical artist and a poetic preacher in his own right, held up by his own merits and worth.