November 17, 2017
Continental Records (Netherlands)
Josh Kaufman, Peter Fox, Cameron Blake
Number of discs:
Cameron Blake’s new album Fear Not is a courageous and beautiful collection of songs that takes you on a journey to places far and wide, within and without. With an ensemble of nearly 50 musicians, the listener is transported into the story of the Tank Man in the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 (“Tiananmen Square”), the struggle of a migrant fleeing across the border to a new life (“The Only Diamond I Could Find”), the complexity and brutality of a racially charged riot in Baltimore (“Sandtown”) and a vignette on the life of the late actor Philip Seymour Hoffman (“Philip Seymour Hoffman”). There’s a storybook quality to many of these songs with lyrics and melodies that recall a seemingly more sentimental time (“Fools Gold”, “Moonlight On A String”) highlighted by lush string arrangements, a girl choir and a jazz combo. However, these songs cannot be classified as neoclassical or part of any vintage revival. They embody a new vision.
“I wanted to tackle fear. I wanted to explain it to my children with words and music that they could feel now and grow to understand later. I opened up stories of the past as they informed the future. Fear is still a powerful tool being used to either save or to tear down.”
Fear Not draws from Blake’s experiences both musically and personally. Originally a violinist, he received a Masters degree in performance from the Peabody Institute of Music in 2007. After a near breakdown from the rigors of his Conservatory training, Blake found a new freedom of expression in songwriting and was inspired by the great 60’s folk troubadours. He also found a home in the Baltimore arts scene making music that was reflective of the city’s quirky mix of Southern hospitality, ‘Hon’ culture and the inescapable confrontation of systemic poverty. He put his ear to the ground and honed his ability to tell a good story; once sleeping outside with the homeless, sitting next to John Waters in a dive bar and belting away in a storefront church into the early hours of the morning.
After a move back to his native Michigan to start a family, his work reached new heights with the release of Alone On The World Stage (2015), an ambitious album featuring nothing more than voice, guitar and occasional piano. The record made numerous ‘Best of the Year’ lists and was featured in publications such as Folk Radio UK, Songwriting Magazine, Clash and Guitarist Magazine. Most compelling was its subject matter; a heart-rending, poetic and poignant picture of the issues that face the world we live in today.
“I had just released Alone On The World Stage and I didn’t have any idea where to go next. My life was completely full. I had so little time to write with two children and a full time job. I think I wrote most of these songs while standing at the sink doing the dishes.”
From its opening moments onwards, Fear Not is clearly an album filled with love. Made with love. The antidote to fear.