October 14, 2014, saw the release of the second album by San Franciscoʼs M. Lockwood Porter, 27. There was a good amount of expectation for this album, following great reviews of last yearʼs Judahʼs Gone and a spring release of the stellar split-single “Chris Bell/Secrets.” Iʼm here to tell you that Porter delivered on those expectations with an album that displays strong songwriting that spans a broad-range of genres. In fact, one of the first things that struck me about 27 was the diversity he demonstrates from song to song while still maintaining his own sound.
Porter, an Oklahoma native, began playing music at an early age. Like so many artists in the Americana/alt-country/idie-folk scene, he cut his teeth on punk and hardcore. When he left home for an education at Yale, he found himself without a scene, lacking people to make music with. Necessity breeds innovation, and music’s no different. Porter began writing as a solo-act, focusing on making meaningful, lyrically driven songs. Last year, with the help of friend Peter Labberton, he released his solo effort, Judahʼs Gone.
It was always his intention to find a band, and for 27, heʼs got a tight five-piece, complete with keys and pedal steel. These guys are great at making this a lively and well-layered effort. “I Know Youʼre Gonna Leave Me,” track one, sets the tone for the album and gives a hint at the genre-bending to come. It opens up as a slow-paced country-rocker with a killer opening line: “Ainʼt it hard when the price differs from the cost?” This is a prime example of Porterʼs love for memorable lyrics that resonate with the listener. If the song remained a slow, sad song with a country feel, it would be a damn good one.
You know how every once in a while, youʼre listening to a song, you hear the chorus, and youʼre just waiting for the drop? Well here it actually does, and believe me it satisfies. Guitar-fuzz kicks in, drums, keys — all in something that beautifully reminds you of a classic power rocker. Then it settles into a nice Southern rock groove. This is such a good song in so many ways. If you love rock and roll, youʼll buy the album just for this.
A strong opening is hammered home by “Chris Bell” — Porterʼs poignant tribute to the Big Star (and essentially rock) hero killed in a car crash at the age of 27, and an incredibly strong second track. This is a brilliantly done country/folk song that opens with a very Dylan-esque harmonica. Halfway through the first verse, weʼre treated to some nice pedal steel fills and, by the end of the course, the keys come in. Porterʼs lyrics are sorrowfully tragic in a way that makes you think things couldʼve been different.
“You Only Talk Aabout Your Band” is a blistering oldies rock nʼ roller thatʼs definitely the most fun on the album. Itʼs a lighter look at a strained relationship through the eyes of someone fed up with dealing with a musician. The high point of the song is most definitely the shredding, back-and-forth solos between guitar and keys — too short for the amount of epic there, but at the same time, perfect.
27 is a solid album worth your time, attention, and money. M. Lockwood Porter and company have put together something special — a little bit of everything, and all of it good. Check his tour schedule to see if heʼs playing nearby. Iʼve got a feeling youʼre going to want to catch him live.
Website: www.mlockwoodporter.com | Bandcamp: www.mlockwoodporter.bandcamp.com
+Words: Eric Chasko+