For about a year or so I have been listening to Jim Portillo at
the Victory Music open mic at Ravenna Third Place Books. Jim has
a relaxed style and a warm voice that soothes the soul. He was
encouraged to start playing this open mic by his friend Stewart
Hendrickson, and he has been a regular ever since.
Jim and I have been getting to know each other through e-mail
and at the open mic. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that
Jim and Sandy McDonald were co-producing a concert of Country
Blues for the Seattle Folklore Society featuring Grant Dermody,
John Miller and Orville Johnson. Being a fan of country blues
I was ready to go and see these local legends.
We arrived at The Phinney Ridge Community Center and were greeted
by a full house. Fortunately we had reserved our seats ahead of
time. As we made our way down to the hall, people who didn't have
reservations formed a growing line, waiting to buy any remaining
unreserved tickets. The hall was packed with blues lovers and
the lovers of blues lovers. Of course I made my way straight to
the coffee and cookies, poured a tall one and sat down to listen
to a fine tribute to country blues. And fine it wassuperb
vocal harmonies, killer harmonica, masterful guitar, and stellar
mandolin and steel guitar. These veterans know how to lay it down.
When they booked this gig they had to promise to have their new
CD Deceiving Blues finished in time for the concert. A lot of
happy folks got to take away a piece of the show because they
lived up to their promise. If you like old country blues then
you've got to see the dynamic trio of Johnson, Miller and Dermody
Do you ever stop and wonder how these concerts happen? This one
started one day in December when Jim and Sandy saw Johnson, Miller
and Dermody play at Dusty Strings. Later Jim decided to ask Sandy,
concert chair for SFS, what would be involved in producing a concert
with these guys. Sandy became Jim's mentor and invited him to
co-produce the concert. Jim says this experience added a whole
new dimension to his music experience.
Jim was born and raised in West Texas. He graduated from high
school and moved to Austin, Texas to attend the University of
Texas. He always liked music as a kid but it was when he moved
to Austin that he first listened to music seriously. One semester,
instead of attending university, he decided to go to a training
center for blind adults in Louisiana. He met Rik James there,
who introduced him to the music of Gordon Lightfoot. After learning
some new skills there, Jim went back to Austin and graduated from
the University of Texas.
His first job took him to Nebraska to work at a rehabilitation
center teaching people who lost their sight how to use computers.
Because he was hooked on music he soon found a radio show called
"River City Folk" hosted by Tom May (which now is syndicated
and comes out of Portland). Listening to this show inspired him
to buy an old Yamaha acoustic guitar and learn to play.
In 2002 Jim moved to Seattle and started taking guitar lessonswhich
he still does to this day. He started going to the SFS song circle
and their concerts, and eventually became a member. Jim finds
the music community he is in very inspiring and now, four years
later, he has found a new thrill. He is an example to all of us
of how our ideas are within our reach if we follow through and
do the work part.
Jim Portillo is a part of the Greater Seattle folk music scene.
At the core of it all lies the Seattle Folklore Society and Victory
Music, two organizations that exist for the sole purpose of nurturing
the community as a whole by promoting the art of music in the
form of concerts, open mics and song circles. Many musicians started
out playing through this network. This is the web behind the scene
with Jim Portillo sitting in.
Michael Guthrie is a singer/songwriter who regularly plays venues
in the Northwest. He is a Victory Music sound volunteer and produced
his own CD. He ran his own coffee house/cafe, The Village Green
Cafe, in Kaslo, BC from 1973-79, and studied sound engineering
and recording at Sound Master Recording Studios in North Hollywood,
CA in 1987. Contact him at email@example.com or visit www.moorafa.com.