Porkbelly Futures has travelled a crooked road since the band’s founding in Toronto fifteen years ago. Originally a four-piece, Chicago-style blues band, its members veered off to embrace folk, country and rock & roll in their self-penned repertoire, creating what many now believe is a unique and vibrant sound. Along the way the band has gained and lost members, but each time recovered to find new strength.
Porkbelly originally featured the prolific singer/songwriter team of Paul Quarrington and Martin Worthy, the duo returning to music after a solo career and many years of cross-country touring with Joe Hall and the Continental Drift. Unusually, the other two Porkbelly members were classical musicians, with Chas Elliott (Toronto Symphony Orchestra) and Stuart Laughton (Canadian Brass) having to learn new instruments but contributing a unique perspective and enormously varied experience. Two session musicians on Porkbelly Futures’ debut album Way Past Midnight subsequently became indelibly associated with the band: vocalist/percussionist Rebecca Campbell (Jane Siberry, Fat Man Waving) remains with the band to this day, while legendary keyboardist Richard Bell (Janis Joplin, The Band, Blackie and the Rodeo Kings) lost his battle with cancer after only four years as a “Belly.”
Tragically, cancer also recently claimed Porkbelly’s much-loved lead vocalist Paul Quarrington, a nationally-recognized writer. At the time of his death Paul was pursuing his dream of being recognized for his song writing as much as his award-winning novels such as Whale Music and King Leary. Despite grave illness, Paul insisted on completing what became a celebratory national tour with the band, a story he relates in his posthumously published and best-selling book, Cigar Box Banjo: Notes on Music and Life. Though understandably impacted after this loss, Porkbelly Futures came back strongly in summer 2010 with members assuming new roles: long-time associate Teddy Leonard (a Maple Blues Guitarist of the Year Award-winner) joins as a full member and brings a propulsive new element to the band’s sound; Marty, Rebecca and now Stuart recreate the group’s characteristic three-part harmonies; Rebecca has added acoustic guitar; Marty has moved his drum kit downstage, the better to trade lead vocals with Rebecca; and Stuart continues his explorations of new sonorities (pedal steel being the current passion). Left unchanged – since no change was needed – was the band’s anchor, Chas Elliott’s electric bass.
The band’s third album The Crooked Road is out now, released by Cordova Bay Records. Recorded in the summer of 2010 by producer David Gray, the disc features songs by Martin Worthy and Paul Quarrington.