Cameron Blake – Fear Not
Cameron Blake’s personal journey resulted in a memorable first solo album, 2015’s Alone on the World Stage, and those exposed to his gifts rightly heralded him as an important new songwriting and musical voice in the indie scene and popular music world in general. His second album Fear Not goes after an even more impressive target than the first – for all intents and purposes, Fear Not is a concept album. It isn’t a concept album in the way we’ve traditionally been taught to understand the form, but rather it is a collection of 12 songs linked together by a common central theme that the writer and musicians alike seek to explore from multiple perspectives. Blake’s songwriting shows genuine poetic depth at key points and also carries a conversational style grounded in concrete imagery that makes for rich listening. Fear Not is a resounding artistic and individual statement far outstripping similar attempts by lesser writers and performers. There isn’t a false note struck at any point in the course of this album.
“Fear Not” might initially strike listeners as staid, even ornate, but you will quickly grow accustomed to the spacious delivery of Blake’s songs and how they derive much of the aural weight through a combination of what the players offer up and the spaces they create in the music. It shows the album’s predilection for classical and piano ballad influences – an abiding sound that recurs throughout the running order and defines a significant portion of the release. “After Sally” has a rustic sort of feel that seems near Americana, but Blake never pursues that vein in a purist sort of way – he seems more content with its suggestion than anything approaching outright homage or pastiche. “The Only Diamond”, likewise, is a number with subject matter that would have fallen ideally into the wheelhouse of some socially conscious folk singer, but it has a real verve and imaginative changes that certainly aren’t boringly predictable. There is some light jazzy guitar and unobtrusive drumming laced through the entirety of “Fool’s Gold” that patiently builds to an enormous second half payoff before slipping into a muted coda. Blake’s voice keeps a steady hand over the bounty of emotions this song explores and it ends up being one of the best moments on Fear Not.
“Queen Bee” embraces a loose, confident gospel/blues influenced pose that suits Blake’s voice well and is joined by some enthusiastic backing vocals. The call and response portions of the vocal arrangement are particularly buoyant. The intimacy opening the cut “Tiananmen Square” soon gives way to some glittering moments of pure orchestral pop bliss while “Old Red Barn” pulls the album back towards more traditional, rural sounding music. “Wailing Wall” is another of the album’s great moments thanks to a world class lyric you can place up against any of the best writers working in music today; it’s truly rewarding to encounter an artist capable of marrying such rich musical virtues with an unique way with words. That way with words is further highlighted on the track “Philip Seymour Hoffman” – fans and causal admirers of the late actor’s work will appreciate this tune and its outstanding arrangement while more astute listeners will notice how, in the manner of all tribute songs, the track ends up saying more about the artist behind its creation. As it should be. Fear Not is a mesmerizing second album from Cameron Blake that shows an artist working at or near the peak of his powers.