Two of the best most never heard of.
By the time I finish this piece, Jeff Porter will be finishing his packing. He’s bound for Norway, to do solo gigs and a few songwriting clinics. In a few weeks, Bob Walkenhorst and the rest of The Rainmakers will join him for a tour. In one of life’s little ironies, two of Missouri’s greatest treasures are most appreciated in another country.
Bob Walkenhorst’s moment of glory came back in the 80s, when The Rainmakers got signed to a major label deal and hot a white hot minute of critical favor. They drew some big crowds, got some MTV play, got some radio play. They released three albums, and the crowds and MTV and the radio play tapered off. But in Norway, they never fell out of favor, and to this day The Rainmakers still tour there.
Jeff Porter wasn’t in the original lineup. He’s a member now, and the co-pilot for the acoustic shows that they will show up and do for anyone that will pay to bring them in. Walkenhorst and Porter have been musical accomplices since the early 2000s, and it’s a synergistic musical relationship. Both are incredibly adept lyricists, players, and vocalists. More importantly, these two sound right together. They support each other beautifully, no matter which of them is delivering the lead vocal. That kind of musical affinity is a rare find, and the result is well worth the listen.
Those four tracks above come from the album No Abandon. This one is not easy to find, but it’s a stunner, and worth hunting down. This record is also the sole studio document of what these two can accomplish as a duo. It is not remiss to suggest that these men could rival Simon and Garfunkel if they wished to pursue that goal.
I had the pleasure of catching these two live in my hometown of Moberly, Missouri. If you are thinking that we don’t get a lot of shows here, you’d be correct. But we have a beautiful, restored theater built in 1913, and Walkenhorst and Porter were kind enough to come play for us. The crowd was smaller than it should have and could have been, but they didn’t seem to mind. They played their hearts out, and the intimate venue and small audience made the show feel like a gathering of old friends. Which at this point, is how I feel about my relationship with Walkenhorst’s music: it’s an old friend. And unlike many artists, Walkenhorst continues to create compelling new material has not been lost.
I bought a copy of No Abandon from Jeff Porter. Ten bucks, and it’s signed. This is a record that improves with repeated listening, and songs like Sinking Hour and Broken Radio make bids to supplant old favorites. If you like finely honed lyrics. good vocals, and acoustic guitars, this album is for you.
These boys are not to be missed in concert, either with The Rainmakers are as a duo: go if you can.
There is something to be said for artists that will go anywhere and play wherever they can, for whomever shows up. The fact that these men write songs that Dylan, Springsteen, and Seger might well envy? That’s icing on the cake.