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Joe Firstman - El Porto
released Jan 26th, 2010

[Image: n43342aclrr.jpg]

from the album - The One That Makes You Happy

YouTube - Joe Firstman The One That Makes You Happy 11/21/09

from all music

A singer, songwriter, and late-night bandleader, Joe Firstman has worn many hats during his career. In the '90s, the Charlotte, NC native became a staple of the local college music scene with his band Firstman (originally Isabel Sol). After spending years supporting national acts that rolled through town, Firstman (the man, not the band) decided to roll the dice on stardom with a move to Hollywood in 2001. After arriving on the west coast, Firstman assembled another eponymous band and set to work building a name for himself by playing shows and working to introduce himself to industry insiders. In 2003, the gamble paid off and Firstman landed a major-label deal, signing with Atlantic Records. That same year, the singer/songwriter’s debut full-length, The War of Women, was released. After touring nationally in support of major acts like Sheryl Crow, Jason Mraz, and Willie Nelson, Firstman decided it was time for another change. In 2005 he left Atlantic to become the bandleader for NBC’s late-night program, Last Call with Carson Daly. His new gig didn’t prevent him from continuing to write music, and in 2006 he released the EP Live at the Sandbox. He would continue to self-release records throughout his tenure on the show, releasing DrAMA! in 2007 and Fell Swoops in 2008. In 2009, NBC decided to go in another direction with Last Call, leaving him out of a job. Relocating from Hollywood to the surf community of El Porto, Firstman once again refocused his efforts on songwriting. The result would be his 2010 album, El Porto, which he released on his own imprint, Firstman Music.

album review

Singer and songwriter Joe Firstman seems to be an artist who moved in reverse in order to mature. After the big notices of his debut album and the support spots on big tours, after his job as bandleader on the Last Call with Carson Daly show ended and his name faded, he took stock of where he’d been since he left South Carolina for Los Angeles, and understood what a schmuck he had been. He moved out of L.A. and into the tiny surf community of El Porto. This album reflects that unsentimentally, without navel-gazing or whining. The album was co-written with Brian Wright and produced by Jimmy Messer. Firstman played everything. This music's sound is immediate — rootsy, loose, and as if it were recorded live at home (it was). There are loads of acoustic and electric guitars, bright, popping drums, and even a horn section in a couple of places. Country, rock, and folk styles merge with their edges intact. The skittering “Marlene and Her Sisters” opens with quick fingerpicking and a dobro, and speaks urgently about loss and desperation: “The skies are endless/above the pastures/in the land of kitchenettes and hungry bastards.” On “House,” a Fender Rhodes and a strummed acoustic pair with a two-note bassline and a thumping trap kit. Firstman lets loose, singing hard into the mirror about a man who has completely lost his way. Songs enter and vanish quickly — the entire album is a shade over 25 minutes. “The One That Makes You Happy” is fueled by acoustic guitar, electric bass, some handclaps, and a rickety piano; it's a confessional love song steeped in repentance. It nakedly expresses its desire for a second chance. “700 Lb. Piano” is a straight-out rocker with blazing guitars, cracking snares, and a lyric that details the strange lives of people he knows as a commentary on his own behavior; it contains a brief, scorching guitar solo. El Porto feels like a first album, yet its raw sound and less-is-more aesthetic reflect the maturity of a writer at the place of dead roads, who knows he has to begin all over again, and therein lies this album's beauty.

Track Listing

1 Marlene and Her Sisters 2:03
2 House 2:11
3 The One That Makes You Happy 3:34
4 Mr. Winston 3:02
5 The Candle Maker 2:48
6 Only for a While 2:15
7 Crowded Town 2:03
8 700 Lb. Piano 2:16
9 Today 2:05
10 On a String 3:10


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