The depth of the Midwest is astounding. From the hidden gem of a waterfall in the Twin Cities to the abrupt “the region is only flat” contradiction that is southwestern Wisconsin when you head towards Iowa down 151, those who explore will be surprised by a subtle treasure. To limit this to geography would deny the pleasures you discover, and I discovered, in the music scene that is ambitious artistically, and embraces the comfort of the Middle West’s bounties simultaneously.
Field Report is the latest offramp discovery that marks the traveler. After nearly setting the strings down following the breakup of DeYarmond Edison, Chris Porterfield has been collecting these songs of “heartbreaking hesitation to act” for five years. Meanwhile Megafaun and Bon Iver stretched their branches across the nation. Now it’s Porterfield’s turn as Field Report, supported by the likes of Emmylou Harris and Adam Duritz of Counting Crows; the latter personally requesting him as an opener. His self-titled debut is that yearned reflective breath, best digested as autumn hustles leaves out of the woods.
“Fergus Falls” and its first six solitary and pensive notes are superb in setting the tone of the album. Echoing as if to remind you, the plucks give in to a tepid optimism. “This is the one in which I miraculously pulled out of a free fall dive over Fergus Falls, Minnesota.” A synth slip on in, as if trying to not disturb by creaking floor boards, in a way you’d expect to come from Jeremiah Nelson’s more electronic side. It’s a slow build with the woods coming alive over quivering bows while Chris musters up the necessary courage, unleashed by repeating the opening lyrics. Unleashed in the sense you’re standing on top of a glacial drumlin and ready to barrel forward.
The debut is not wholly country nor folk, but a balance that freely dips from one to the other. “In the Year of the Get You Alone” walks this line, despite the background synth. The main strength in the songwriting and lyrics. “All my love, what have we become? Crippled by joy and pursuit thereof.” “Incommunicado” holds reservations via defeated, embarrassed voice ashamed by the unspoken, before the chorus comes forth like a plea (“When you coming home? When you coming home?”). “Evergreen” may just be the highlight in hindsight with that ever-present synth lulling over Porterfield’s powerful imagery. “Let’s regrow your hair, and I will cut mine close cropped to the skull. We’ll keep the ones turned gray, by the blind white blast of a bitter cold as a badge to a bad winter of a long year that really took hold.” When the song’s title comes in, Field Report shines despite the prevalent apprehensive introspection.
Field Report is right in line with those two other columns that radiated from Eau Claire. While some may find it heavy, “Captain Video” foretells what may come from Porterfield now that this hard-worked album has emerged. Call it spring cleaning of the soul, and thankfully all that was held in is now exposed.