The Satisfaction of ‘All Good Things’

Mr. Potter’s music has reached a wider audience through the release of his second album, “All Good Things.”
Job Potter at home in Springs Christopher Walsh

    The bluesy harmonica of Job Potter has long been heard at local open mike events and jam sessions, like the Sunday afternoon ones outside the Springs General Store.

    In recent weeks, Mr. Potter’s music has reached a wider audience through the release of his second album, “All Good Things.” The folksy, acoustic-based album is available at the Apple iTunes Store and cdbaby.com as well as at the Springs General Store and Crossroads Music in Amagansett. The musicians Caroline Doctorow, Pete Kennedy, and Gary Oleyar join Mr. Potter, who also sings and plays rhythm guitar, on the album’s 13 tracks.

    It has been a long road to the present, and Mr. Potter’s varied experiences on the South Fork — he is a former East Hampton Town councilman and current member of the town’s planning board — and in New York City inform both “All Good Things” and his first, self-titled release in 2011. “The genesis of this was about 30 years ago,” he said. “I started playing guitar, jamming with friends on Sundays and stuff, and I love to write songs.” A realization, he said, came five years ago, upon turning 60. “I felt I better record these songs, or nobody will ever know I did it. I connected with Caroline Doctorow, who’s a wonderful songwriter, and she said, ‘I’ve got this studio and this great guy, Pete Kennedy, I work with.’ ”

    Mr. Kennedy, who records and performs with his wife, Maura, in the rock duo the Kennedys, produced “All Good Things” with Ms. Doctorow in her Narrow Lane Studios in Bridgehampton. He contributed much of the instrumentation, and Ms. Doctorow played guitar. Both contributed harmony vocals.

    “What they do in the studio is just wonderful,” Mr. Potter said. “They really feature the songwriter and the voice, and they don’t overload it with instruments. Pete is just a genius — he’s an amazing guitarist and just a gentleman, a really interesting guy. It was really fun.”

    Mr. Potter is also quick with praise for other South Fork musicians with whom he plays. Jim Turner, he said, was indispensable to his own musical development. “I was in a garage band and was playing rhythm guitar and harmonica,” he said. “I was really over my head in terms of the music, so I worked with Jim for about a year — he’s an amazing harmonica player. He’s the one who really got me started and steered me in the right direction.”

    Many of the songs on “All Good Things” — the title is a lyric from the last song, “Portrait of May” — are set on the South Fork, and listeners will hear both celebrations and lamentations of the land, the sea, and the people who have been sustained by both. The song “Storm Warning” most starkly portrays the land he loves, past and present: “The country life is gone now, city people run the show / The old small town’s a memory. . . .”

    The song, Mr. Potter said, is “based on one bayman who told me his life story, using some of those details. Because I was here in the 1950s as a kid, I’ve seen this change. It paints a pretty bleak picture, not just about the haulseiners but about the whole life of the baymen, how difficult that’s become.”

    “And the good old days, my good old friends, ain’t coming back,” Mr. Potter concludes in “Storm Warning.” “It’s not a happy song,” he observed.

    “I’m a self-described liberal,” Mr. Potter said. “I believe in human rights and environmentalism. I believe in government being honest with people.” But above all else, he said, “These songs are about relationships. They are stories. A lot of them are about love and the good and bad aspects of relationships.”    Mr. Potter’s life in the disparate worlds of New York and Amagansett influence his music. His father, Jeffrey Potter, who died in 2012, wrote books including “To a Violent Grave,” an oral biography of Jackson Pollock. “He was from the city, a summer kid. They were friends with a number of the painters, and socially part of that scene,” Mr. Potter said of his parents.

    In 1949, his parents bought Stony Hill Farm in Amagansett. “I grew up on the farm year-round until I was 7, then lived in the city. But we kept the farm so I came out here every vacation and summer.”

    “Evocation IRT (1961)” portrays Mr. Potter’s life in New York. “When my parents split up, my mom took the kids back to New York,” he said. “So in seventh and eighth grade, at least, I was riding the subway every day from the West Village up to Dalton [School] on 89th Street. I wrote that in 1978, so it has a slightly ‘punk’ feeling, which was the happening music at the time. It’s kind of the story of my misspent youth.”

    Never happy in the city, he longed to return to the South Fork. “This was home,” he said. “I think I have a bit of a romantic point of view about this place because I remember it from the ’50s, and have a respect for the local people. Those were the adults I knew when I was growing up, and my friends were local kids.” He returned as a year-round resident in 1978.

    He has worked on the water, as a real estate appraiser, a volunteer with the Nature Conservancy, and in government, where he was closely involved in East Hampton Town’s preservation purchases through the community preservation fund. “That was lucky timing for me,” he said.

    Mr. Potter plans a mass mailing of “All Good Things” to radio stations, and continues to perform at open mike events. “In a way,” he said, recording one’s music “is worth doing simply because it gives you some credibility, and your friends and people in the community can see what you’re doing. For me, it’s so satisfying to complete it. It’s something I always wanted to do.”