The Coal Porters are a British-American bluegrass band headquartered in London and led by Sid Griffin (mandolin, autoharp, harmonica and vocals) and Neil Robert Herd (guitar and vocals) The other members are Kerenza Peacock (fiddle, vocals), Paul Fitzgerald (banjo, vocals), and Andrew Stafford (bass, vocals). Griffin formed the group in Los Angeles in 1989 and then reorganized the band after moving to London.
Sid Griffin was a founding member of The Long Ryders and is the author of Shelter From The Storm: Bob Dylan's Rolling Thunder Years; Million Dollar Bash: Bob Dylan, The Band and The Basement Tapes; co-author of Bluegrass Guitar: Know the Players, Play the Music; and Gram Parsons - A Music Biography. He has contributed reviews and feature articles to Mojo, Q, The Guardian and appears every six weeks on BBC Radio 2 to discuss cultural changes on the Mark Radcliffe-Stuart Maconie Show.
Neil Robert Herd, in addition to his career as a musician, has performed as a comedian, and finished second to Stewart Lee as the Best New Stand-Up Comedian at the Hackney Comedy Awards Festival in 1992. He has also promoted many British comedy, film and music festivals.
Kerenza Peacock has played fiddle with Adele on her recorded hits and also performed with Seasick Steve and Paul Weller.
Andrew Stafford plays bass and adds vocals.
Paul Fitzgerald is something of a banjo legend in his native Kent.
Eight full-length albums and two EPs are credited to the Coal Porters. Their latest release, Find The One, appeared in September 2012 on the Prima label, distributed in the UK by Proper and in the USA by Burnside. Producer John Wood, best known for his work with Fairport Convention, John Martyn, Cat Stevens, Sandy Denny, Nick Drake, the Incredible String Band, Pink Floyd, Nico and Squeeze, was at the controls at Snap! Studios in London, with Ben McClusky co-credited for engineering. Ed Stasium mixed and mastered the project at the Kozy Tone facility in Bayfield, Colorado.
Find The One offers 10 tracks written by various band members, as well as covers of David Bowie's Heroes and the Rolling Stones' Paint It, Black. Richard Thompson joins the Coal Porters on the Sid Griffin-Carly Frey composition Hush U Babe/Burnham Thorpe, and famed BBC presenter Brian Matthew provides a guest introduction to Griffin's Ask Me Again. Among the other tracks are Red-Eyed & Blue, Brand New Home, The BetseyTrotwood, Gospel Shore and You Only Miss Her When She's Gone.
Durango, the Coal Porters' 2010 compact disc, also appeared on the Prima label. Ed Stasium recorded the 12-track CD in Durango, Colorado, the Southern Colorado town for which the album is named. Songs include No More Chains, Roadkill Breakdown featuring Tim O'Brien as guest mandolinist, and Peter Rowan's Moonlight Midnight, with Rowan joining the Coal Porters for the session.
Their preceding CD, Turn The Water On, Boy! (2008), received four-star reviews in Mojo, Uncut, The Sunday Times, Maverick and Word magazines. The dozen-track album features original songs by Griffin, Herd and other band members, as well as a bluegrass revamping of the Long Ryders' Final Wild Son, a cover of former Byrds member Gene Clark's Silver Raven and a guest appearance by another member of the Byrds, Chris Hillman, who plays mandolin on a tribute to Woody Guthrie. Earlier bluegrass-style Coal Porters' albums are How Dark This Earth Will Shine (2004), with Peter Case and Amy Rigby as guests, and the live Chris Hillman Tribute Concerts (2001), featuring run-ups of songs from Hillman's career with the Byrds, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Manassas and Desert Rose.
The evolution to bluegrass from country-rock occurred after Griffin produced Lindisfarne's Here Comes The Neighborhood album in 1998. Inspired by that band's acoustic instrumentation, he and Herd worked up bluegrass versions of their Coal Porters' (and occasional Long Ryders') repertoire and debuted them successfully at a London charity event for Children in Need at Royal Festival Hall. The band's earlier country-rock albums are the following: the live Gram Parsons Tribute Concert (1999), EP Roulette (1998), Los London (1995), Land of Hope and Crosby (1994) and the initial EP Rebels Without Applause (1991).
Griffin formed The Coal Porters in 1989 following the demise of The Long Ryders. The Coal Porters, like their predecessors, initially demonstrated strong Byrds and Gram Parsons influences, playing country and country-rock songs written by Griffin with occasional collaborators. Before the band's initial lineup fell into place, a number of Griffin's musician friends made appearances at early gigs and performed on first recordings, including drummer Greg Sowders from The Long Ryders and Billy Bremner of Rockpile.
By 1991, the band had solidified with Griffin on lead vocals and guitar, Chris Buessem lead guitar, Ian Thomson bass, Billy Block drums and Andy Kaulkin keyboards. Tracks featuring this lineup appeared on the EP Rebels Without Applause, Land of Hope and Crosby and Los London. By then Griffin and Thomson had relocated to the United Kingdom, while Block opted for a career in Nashville and Kaulkin moved to the business side of music to run Epitaph Records and found the ANTI- label. Subsequent UK members have included Kevin Morris (Dr. Feelgood), John Bennett (High Llamas), Ian Gibbons (Kinks), and Rob Childs (Otis Lee Crenshaw).