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PAUL ORTA & LITTLE RAY YBARRA DUO: Back Porch Blues
Blues International BI 2002 (40:00)

Big Boss Man/ Who Do You Love/ Rock My Soul/ Don’t Start Crying/ I Ain’t Got You/ Tribute To Big Walter/ My BeBop Gal/ Baby What You Want To Do (sic)/ I Can’t Believe My Eyes/ Rock Me Baby/ Hoochie Coochie Man/ Boogie Till You Drop

When it comes to in-the-alley, lowdown blues, Paul Orta is the go to guy, the Port Arthur native has been on the local blues scene for decades, with over a dozen releases to his name. For his new release Paul Orta has stripped his approach down to just his vocal and harp (with the added harp of Dan Moser on a couple of cuts) and Ray Ybarra (guitar, kick drum, hi-hat). This joint enterprise was recorded at Great Recordings Studio in Port Arthur. With a mix of originals and covers, Orta and Ybarra have cut an album that Orta regards as traditional blues.

Opening with a knock down-drag out take on ‘Big Boss Man’ (with Jes Doll banging the tambourine), Orta’s blues harp wails mightily and Ybarra keeps the rhythm solid. Next up, a raucous ‘Who Do You Love’, Orta yells the vocal and blows the back off the harp, Ybarra keeps a solid rhythm on kick drum and hi-hat, like Joe Hill Louis on Buckfast, while banging out the guitar part, nice cut. Track three is a classy Orta original titled ‘Rock My Soul’, followed by a supercharged take on Slim Harpo’s ‘Don’t Start Crying’.

‘Tribute To Big Walter’ is (naturally) a harp feature, when Orta showcases his harp playing he really is a superb, if somewhat unsung player who deserves a bigger reputation. ‘My BeBop Gal’ (Doctor Ross) really gets in the spirit of the Ross sound, with crashing hi-hat, thumping kick drum, tough vocal and big harp sound. ‘Baby What You Want To Do’ is firmly in the Jimmy Reed tradition, while ‘I Can’t Believe My Eyes’ is in a Wolf bag with lashings of high-octane blues harp. ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’ is a fairly straight-ahead version, however this Willie Dixon classic is given added piquancy with the addition of Moser’s second harp, and the set closes with a Slim Harpo-styled boogie original titled ‘Boogie Till You Drop’.

In the current atmosphere of over-cooked recordings, some artists tend to forget the sound and origins of good old-fashioned rootsy blues. This recording is raw, lowdown, and dirty, I’m a fan of Paul Orta, never been disappointed by his releases in the past, and this is one of the best. A five star release any way you look at it. And full marks to Little Ray who never puts a foot wrong all the way through.

Phil Wight

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“Back Porch Blues”
Paul Orta & Little Ray Ybarra
Blues International Records
Produced by Paul Orta

Review by Greg Forest

When it comes to blues that is the “real deal,” Paul Orta walks the walk. This Port Arthur bluesman has been on the Texas blues scene for decades – with over a dozen albums to his credit. This latest release carries a master’s legacy into the 21st Century.

Orta is best known for tours with his band The Kingpins, but this new recording is a return to where the blues starts – with a jug around a kitchen table or a backporch cooking up blues using just the basic ingredients. His new release, “Backporch Blues” aptly is named. The CD features 12 songs recorded with Little Ray Yberra in a production with no smoke, no mirrors or net. In these days of over-produced recordings, many forget the sound and origins of true roots blues. This recording is totally raw, down and dirty foot-stompin’ blues.

Orta and Ybarra deliver bare-bones blues as performed in small roadhouses, speakeasies, gin mills and street corners where the blues is born, lives and thrives. Every song on the CD, especially the ones penned by Orta, are a tribute to the great blues legends like Willie Dixon, Jimmy Reed, Big Walter, B.B. King and others. Wailing on the blues harp that has gained Orta world renown – combined with Ybarra’s rock-solid guitar work, the duo has painted a sonic canvas that, if you close your eyes, puts you in a smoke-filled bar or roadhouse. These are men that live and love the blues and this CD is a straight shot dead center into the heart of the genre. If authentic blues is what you seek, look no further – pull up a chair and sit yourself down on the backporch.

Paul is on the web at paulortamusic.com, paulortablues.com or friend him on Facebook.

Review in the Spring 2014 Edtion of The Heart Beat of the Texas Hill Country Magazine

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