In Americana music, songs of protest and cultural commentary are nothing new. There is a long and storied history of troubadours lending their voices to such songs. With California-based singer-songwriter M. Lockwood Porter’s third album, How To Dream Again, we have another fine example of what it is to question the promise of The American Dream, examine our prejudices and appreciate the importance of an open heart and an open mind.
The album is sonically diverse, drawing on rock and acoustic influences, and lyrically cohesive in its message. Each of the ten songs featured on the album could stand alone but together they offer a comprehensive look at where we have been as a society, where we have to go and a way to get there.
In “American Dream Denied” and “The Future Ain’t What It Used To Be,” the driving rock drives home the frustration and anger felt by many left behind when working hard and playing by the rules doesn’t necessarily insure success. The slower, acoustic instrumentation found on “Reach The Top” echoes the sadness that can come when we realize that the materialism we embrace comes at a heavy personal cost. The mid-tempo “Sad/Satisfied” cautions against giving in to the opposite, yet equal, dangers of cynicism and complacency.
There is a fine ballad in “Joe Hill’s Dream” which tells the true story of Joe Hill, a Swedish-American laborer and activist born in 1879 and becoming a hero to his union, immigrants and all laborers through his protest music. A moving commentary on the stain of racism that still haunts us is presented on “Charleston” which focuses on the June 2015 shooting at Emmanuel Church.
Through all this, the album does offer some possible remedies to the sadness and frustration in the power of love that can keep us from closing our minds and hearts. “Bright Star” and “Strong Enough” speak of romantic love and, commitment. Love in the broader contexts of spirituality and compassion is embraced in the album’s final song, “Dream Again.”
Porter’s message in How To Dream Again certainly may be controversial and will definitely make some listeners uncomfortable but that is the point of any body of work dealing in social commentary. Music that makes you think can be a good thing and that’s what you’ll find with this album.
To find out more, visit www.mlockwoodporter.com