M. Lockwood Porter “Sisyphus Happy”

Black Mesa Records, 2022

Superb release for Oakland songwriter with John Moreland helping out.

It’s good to have a book on the go at all times – and it’s amazing how literature can influence song writing as well. Oakland, California based Porter started reading Albert Camus’ The Myth of Sisyphus towards the end of recording this album and it really struck a chord with the musician. “It captured so much of what I was feeling” he recounts, “that you’re rolling this boulder up the mountain every day, only for it to roll back again, but somehow you find peace in that rather than seeing it as pointless”.

The turmoil he alludes to centres on events happening to him around the recording – his long time relationship ended (but happily started again later), sparking a move back to his home state of Oklahoma and then his father passed away.  He moved back to California, got married and then was forced to cope with the pandemic.

All of this brought a spirituality to Porter which is evidenced in the moving yet uplifting tone of the wonderful songs on this album, richly enhanced with colleague and long term friend John Moreland, who provides fantastic support to Porters DIY approach, as he recorded on his own at home, recording his own parts on guitar, piano, synths and more. Moreland supplies drums, bass and mixing and the combination of these two great musicians is a feast for the ears.

The album opens with ‘Cried Through The Night’, a moving song about a sense of realisation Porter had and a strong sense of clarity this change of mind had on him.  It’s a lovely lilting song with some fine guitar work towards the end.

The Kid Who Ran Away’ , the album highlight, is a fantastic upbeat song on a deeply personal and challenging subject. It chronicles his relationship with his late father – eccentric and emotionally distant, the only atheist in their small town and a prolific letter writer. Telling lyrics include “Bought an old Camaro when I turned 13, said we could fix it up as a team/you meant ‘I love you’ in the way you knew, we both needed something the other couldn’t do”. Masterful stuff.

Another standout track is ‘While We’re Here’, a deeply personal song about personal re-evaluation with a glorious mix of acoustic,  pedal steel guitar (shout out to Ian Taylor Sutton) and synth, creating an almost dreamlike feel and including a stirring acoustic guitar solo towards the end. Movingly, the song ends on some atmospheric sound effect of footsteps walking into a home. Quality oozes from every second of this song – and so many others on this album.

‘I’d like To Take You With Me When I Go’ is another moving and wistful song mixing acoustic guitar and synth and ‘The Whim To Walk Upstairs’ mixes keyboards with Wilbury’s style guitar to great effect.

Having allowed these ten songs to waft over you, the listener has a genuinely peaceful and positive feel that only great music can do. Hats off to Porter and Moreland – this is one of the most rewarding listens of the year so far –  a hearty round of applause.

9/10
9/10

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