Milwaukee singer-songwriter Willy Porter enjoyed some modest success with his 1994 indie album, "Dog Eared Dream," which got picked up by a major label, won some airplay and allowed him to tour with such acts as Tori Amos and Rickie Lee Jones. It has taken him five years, however, to get out of that major-label deal and release a follow-up, "Falling Forward." The new disc enjoys a major-league producer, Neil Dorfsman, and fuller folk-rock arrangements, but Porter is still misjudging his own talents.

Like his heroes Leo Kottke and Michael Hedges, Porter is an accomplished and inventive acoustic guitarist. And like those heroes, Porter isn't much of a lyricist or singer. On their best recordings, Kottke and Hedges used their vocals as a mere adjunct to the main event--their marvelous command of melody and harmony on the guitar. Porter, however, makes the mistake of allowing his words and voice to take over the foreground and thus obscure his much more interesting picking. Who wants to hear his dull baritone droning on about "the mystery of you keeps me holding on" when his six-string accompaniment is the real treat?

Appearing Sunday at Iota.

To hear a free Sound Bite from Willy Porter, call Post-Haste at 202/334-9000 and press 8130. (Prince William residents, call 690-4110.)