Cameron Blake – Fear Not
Fear Not is a deeply satisfying twelve song outing, the second in Cameron Blake’s career, and undeniably personal. It is an album, as well, that looks outside itself to the world at large in an effort to help listeners relate to what otherwise might prove dry going – a look at the presence of fear in our lives and what it does to us. Such heavy fare can be accompanied by a couple of approaches – the songwriting could opt for something unrelenting, dour melodies or a dense aural attack designed to embody the claustrophobia often seconding fear’s arrival. Another slant on the idea would be to mitigate the potential darkness of the subject with lyrical and sweetening elements like backing vocals. Blake opts for the second approach more often than not and, coupled with his clear desire to communicate, Fear Not succeeds in fulfilling its rather hefty ambitions. This is no half hearted effort. Cameron Blake throws himself headlong into this musical experience and a bevy of nearly fifty musicians add him in making this musical vision come to pass.
“Fear Not” tackles the theme directly and it makes for quite a memorable opening. This is one of the album’s songs best personifying his longing to make this theme resonate for listeners and it works because of its clear spoken elegance and obvious sensitivity. Blake doesn’t have a conventionally appealing voice and there’s a slight monotone quality to his delivery, but heard in a different light, it’s easy to hear feeling creeping in around the edges of his voice. “The Only Diamond” has a surprisingly jaunty feel without coming off as a shuffle and has, arguably, the biggest potential for widespread appeal of any song on the album. His strengths as a storyteller come across nicely with this performance and the dry delivery remarked on earlier serves it rather well. Despite that, he’s very effective on the chorus. There’s some nice flashes of jazz guitar, clean and cascading chords rising from the mix throughout, and it’s juxtaposed well against some lush, yet never overplayed, string section. The near classical influences continue with the song “Tiananmen Square” and are brought off to even greater effect there thanks to Blake aiming even higher than ever before. It’s a practically cinematic listening experience.
“Old Red Barn” has some unexpected musical touches, but it largely embraces a country blues styled musical arrangement that has a light touch and deceptive simplicity. It takes just the right amount of pressure to summon up this type of mood and the poetic qualities of this song are just as strong as the best material on Fear Not, albeit put across in a different way. “Moonlight on a String” incorporates some creative bass runs, delicate guitar playing, and an unpredictable progression through the arrangement. There’s some light keyboards playing alongside the piano leading the way through “Philip Seymour Hoffman” and Blake lets go with a wonderful vocal somewhat reminiscent of John Cale’s singing and making a great lyric mean even more thanks to the meaning he invests the words with. “Monterey Bay” concludes the album with the same cinematic flair distinguishing earlier tracks like “The Only Diamond” with writing that reflects the sense of place implied in the title. Fear Not is a powerful release that uses a number of musical approaches to get over its theme with some amazing vocal work making it stand out even more.