Maybe it’s just a geographical coincidence or laziness on our part but when we listened to M. Lockwood Porter’s album 27 we were reminded almost immediately of Porter’s fellow Oklahoman, John Fullbright. Fullbright has blossomed into one of the best songwriters about these days with his arrangements and delivery recalling masters such as Randy Newman and Jimmy Webb while his songs hit the same nerve as the likes of Townes Van Zandt do. Porter lurks around the same territory with his songs tightly arranged, sprinkled with a touch of Americana (with pedal steel ornamenting several of the songs) but at his best he also recalls premier league songwriters with his song Secrets a meltingly wonderful confection that conjures up Brian Wilson’s vulnerability and wraps it in a Big Star production.
Big Star are revisited on the ode to Alex Chilton’s compadre, Chris Bell. Tributes to other writers, particularly dead ones can come across as mawkish or at worst, a tick box exercise but Porter manages to marry an excellent Neil Young type shuffle to an affectionate and worthy tribute to Bell that swells with emotion. It’s of note that the album title, 27, is Lockwood’s current age and also the age at which Bell and several other rockers died leading to the notion of the infamous 27 club.
Lockwood describes the album as “half break up, half quarter life crisis.” He looks back to his early years on the clamorous and percussive Mountains, describing his conversion to rock’n’roll almost as a religious experience. Different Kind Of Lonely harvests the sound of The Band on an organ kicked roustabout that sways and swaggers with a drunken joyousness while I Know You’re Gonna Leave Me celebrates rock music with a tremendous dynamic, part piano confessional, part soaring guitar, it recalls Wilco on their Being There album, superior pop rock which builds to an exciting climax. In addition there’s the mayhem of the Jim Steinman rockandrollrama of Restless that leaves the listener breathless and the more intimate There To Here that allows Lockwood to bare his soul for an instant. All in all a tremendous album.