Pork Tornado (Rykodisc)

Pork Tornado is comprised of some of the most well-seasoned and better-known musicians in the Burlington, Vermont area.

Originally formed back in 1997, Pork Tornado began as a side project of Phish’s eccentrically charming drummer, Jon Fishman. Playing mainly R&B covers throughout their first few years, the band eventually amassed enough original material to release its first disc in early October. And just as the other members of Phish have done on their recently released post-Phish solo project CDs, Fishman is now creating and playing a style of music that bears little or no resemblance to that in which he was so completely immersed during the previous 13 years.

In addition to Fishman on drums, Pork Tornado is comprised of some of the most well-seasoned and better-known musicians in the Burlington, Vermont area: Dan Archer on guitar, Joe Moore on sax, Aaron Hersey on bass, and Phil Abair on keyboards. Four out of the five band members contributed to the writing of the disc’s 12 tracks, about half of which lean toward a New Orleans sound, similar to that of bands like the Neville Brothers or the Radiators. There are also a few numbers, such as the love song “Home is Where You Are,” and the zippy, toe-tapping “Blue Skies,” which both sound as if they could easily have been found on the fun-filled Golden Country Greats release from the band Ween (a frequently played favorite on the jukebox at Frederick’s).

“Kiss My Black Ass,” which contains some offensive yet funny lyrics, features Moore playing some mean sax in between his lead vocal work. “Chained to a Stump,” the disc’s one and only Phish-flavored track, utilizes some interesting syncopation and time signature changes. And surprisingly enough, the only two tracks that Fishman wrote contain no drums: one is a 35-second long solo organ piece, and the other is a wonderfully sung four-part harmony a cappella number entitled “All American.”

Fishman states that he sees Pork Tornado as a “back-to-basics thing that focuses on the fundamentals,” as opposed to the “musical acrobatics” styling that Phish is so famous for. Whether or not this change will be viewed as a positive or negative one by listeners, both Phish and non-Phish fans alike, remains to be seen.

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