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M Lockwood Porter M Lockwood Porter
Album: How To Dream Again
Label: At The Helm
Tracks: 10

We all know that Dylan didn't light the fire. He was fanning the flames of his politically charged predecessors. He is though of course, the one who upped the ante and changed the game. He has inspired many singer songwriters over the past 50 years and M. Lockwood Porter is the latest in this line.

His new album How To Dream Again is a nice balance. Engaging love songs that sound both personal and universally identifiable coupled with songs that also show his disaffected view on American life. Modern protest songs about current affairs in the USA that have brought into sharp focus America's unease with itself and divisions in its society.

This combination is an interesting mix and brings together both elements of the Dylan influence; protest songs and the lyrical imagery that came later.

M. Lockwood Porter has a lot to say and creates contemporary songs with a familiar but timeless style. The album is a mix of bigger production numbers and simple acoustic guitar and harmonica songs. His harp playing more reminiscent of Springsteen than Dylan and a voice that bears a similarity to Tom Petty.

On the first track on the album, American Dreams Denied, all these elements are to the fore. It is a rocker in the vein of Springsteen even down to the slowing of pace to finally build back up to the end crescendo all with that Tom Petty sound thrown in.

The next three songs are compelling personal stories of the inherent uncertainty in looking for eternal love. Burn Away is a catchy commercial sounding song but has a world weary lyric expressing a love that unlike a "fever or a flame" won't "burn away". Bright Star is a simple but hooky tune, again on a together forever, do you remember how we were, love song theme. This is followed by Strong Enough the third in this tryptic of love songs. Another very well written and constructed song. Lyrically M. Lockwood Porter caught my interest with his ability as a tunesmith and with some interesting unconventional lyrical lines.

The album continues in a vein of storytelling with Joe Hill's Dream where the songwriter tells his version of the story of Joe Hill a protest singer and WW1 labour organiser who was executed on highly questionable charges 100 years ago.

What follows are three songs that expressively paint pictures of the writers witness to the dissatisfaction many may feel with modern American life. Reach The Top is a wry swipe at the failure of the American Dream and asks many more questions than there may be answers for. If indeed the answer my friend was blowin' in the wind then M. Lockwood Porter claims that he "tried to listen to the wind blow, you can't hear it anymore".

This is followed by The Future Ain't What It Used To Be which rocks along, again reminding me of a Born To Run blast with a side helping of The Clash thrown in. In amongst the rocking though is another great lyric. It's not quite a resigned but maybe a slightly bitter take on life. "We can't afford to live in the land of the free" he sings. Then a change of pace with Charleston which casts it's critical eye over U.S politics, race relations, hate and division.

All these three songs graphically demonstrate a very imaginative and colourful ability to write about current affairs in the long tradition of protest folk singers.

The penultimate song on the album is an excellent jaunty, upbeat song, Sad/Satisfied, a really great melodic song which reminded me in part of Tanita Tikaram's, Good Tradition.

The title track is left to the end and rounds things off in a downbeat mood but I'm not complaining as the rest of the album is solid gold and has an urgency and political directness that compels me to like it.

How To Dream Again was recorded live in three days with minimal overdubs. This approach has worked well to create an immediate sounding record. Its tough, direct and with lot's of space which allow the songs to breathe. It is politically charged both as a comment on social affairs and as a thoughtful view on love, its importance and fragility. As M. Lockwood Porter says, "I wanted to make a piece of art that captures this time, where daily life is political… from chasing dreams of individual success to dreaming about creating something bigger than myself, whether that's being in love or building a better world." You can't argue with that. How To Dream Again is a very well written, personal and thoughtful album that was a privilege to listen to and one I would highly recommend.

James Morris