In recent years, the art of the protest song has dwindled slightly. Gone are the days when Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Ewan MacColl, Billy Bragg, Bob Marley, and Neil Young could effortlessly write a song about social injustice at the drop of a hat. Tom Morello had a stab at it with his Nightwatchman side project, but the results seemed flat. It’s not like all of the world’s problems have been solved; far from it – but there is a new voice out who is taking up this tradition of singing about what’s wrong in the hope it will change. Enter Michigan’s Cameron Blake.
Blake is a protest singer/songwriter in the purest form. He writes from the perspective of the aggrieved and downtrodden. Be that Israel and Palestine’s ongoing conflict, an Oil Boom, or living hand to mouth. His songs are full of social injustice and melancholy. But there is beauty there, too. He’s written about his unborn daughter on ‘Ultrasound’, which is full of hope and love. “The rapid fingerpicking in this song represents her quick heartbeat in the womb,” Blake said about the song. Using only his voice and an acoustic guitar, he channels Townes Van Zandt, Nick Drake and James Yorkston, with the social commentary of Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen‘s Nebraska era.
All of this is evident on Blake’s latest album, Alone On The World Stage. During its writing and recording he explains that there “was a huge learning curve playing solo and writing songs that can carry without added instrumentation, but it’s been an invigorating process that has forced me to become even more critical of my writing and playing” When questioned about what influenced Alone On The World Stage, Blake answered, “Many artists have inspired the project from Nick Drake to Japanese Butoh dancer Kazuo Ohno and Danish film-maker Carl Dryer.”
Alone On The World Stage is released on 16th March and is shaping up to be another solid release from Grand Rapid’s folk troubadour. When questioned about the songwriting process he replied “Every night before I wrote I had a mantra I would repeat to myself: You have everything you need to write a great song- a brain, a heart and a pencil.” With inner belief like and heartfelt poignant songs it’s difficult to see how 2015 shouldn’t be Blake’s breakout year.