The Coal Porters were formed in the 1990s by ex-Long Ryder Sid Griffin. Relocating from Los Angeles to London the band left its electric instrumentation behind and slowly mutated into the acoustic act they are today. In fact, the Coal Porters claim to be the world’s first “alt-bluegrass” act, given as they take old themes and melodies and soup them up for the 21st century and their expanded listening audience.
The band has demonstrated the power of fiddle, mandolin, banjo, acoustic guitar and doghouse bass when matched with three and four-part harmonies and memorable melodies – and taken this sound around the world. They have wowed audiences at numerous UK and European arts centres, done no less than four North American tours and performed to tens of thousands at festivals such as Glastonbury, HebCelt, Stagecoach (USA), Larmer Tree, Didmarton, LaRoche (France), Cork Midsummer Fest (Eire), Wombwell and Hultsfredsfestivalen (Sweden).
The Coal Porters have recorded six albums. Their most recent album, No. 6, was again produced by British folk-rock legend John Wood, who engineered and/or produced all the early Fairport Convention classic albums as well as Squeeze, John Cale, Beth Orton and the entire Nick Drake catalogue. This is the Coal Porters album which took three years to incubate. Four new Sid songs, three new Neil Bob Herd originals, and Kerenza Peacock contributing her first recorded lead vocal on a very personal song. No. 6 was recorded in two creative bursts in late 2014 and in 2015 and is the Coal Porters’ follow up to Find The One, which was wildly received with great reviews in Mojo, Uncut, Word, The Daily Mail, The Sunday Times, Rolling Stone and many other publications.
The current line-up is Griffin (a native of Kentucky), long-term sidekick Neil Robert Herd from Scotland, fiddle virtuoso Kerenza Peacock, bassist Andrew Stafford and ace banjo guru Paul Fitzgerald. Griffin sums it up by saying ‘The Coal Porters are five musicians who play four chord songs from three countries for two good reasons; for health and for happiness’.
They have performed live BBC sessions for the hippest DJs on the airwaves in Blighty such as Whisperin’ Bob Harris and Marc Riley and indeed are no strangers to radio abroad be it the USA, Italy or Norway. In February 2011 the Coal Porters were recorded by NPR in the USA for their prestigious Regional Voices series at a benefit concert they gave at the International Bluegrass Music Museum in Owensboro, Kentucky, and they were recently featured nationwide in the States on NPR’s prestigious Weekend Edition show. Which proves they are truly international!
“Great harmony singing and memorable songs that often recall a British Flying Burrito Brothers or a back porch Ronnie Lane”
“Not your average fish and chips bluegrass, the Coal Porters have expanded their music with broad strokes and fearless execution.”
“A sumptuous bluegrass spread impeccably served”
“Sid Griffin was playing Americana years before the term was invented and that pioneer spirit shines on with his current band, the Coal Porters.”
“Swell picking, sweet vocals, strong tunes…a bucketful of tradition”
“The 5-piece Coal Porters use banjos, mandolins and fiddles to whip up a feel-good storm.”
The Daily Mail
“Sidlicious licks from this vicious kid, a plucky Kentuckian who blows the socks off of Rocky Top, turns Mason’s Apron into shreds and leaves the audience in a foggy mental breakdown. Sid & his Coal Porters sidmen will leave you besid yourself with joy. Enough Sid.”
“A fine set of rousing bluegrass……always a joy to see and hear”
A shorter biography and the complete history of The Coal Porters is availible here.