Review: Matt Townsend – “The Drifter and the Dream part 1″
There’s a way to inspire people that’s more heartfelt than reposting a news article on social media and more meaningful than complaining to your colleagues around the water cooler. For Asheville, North Carolina indie folk artist Matt Townsend, he’s found a way of invoking social commentary through his passion. On his upcoming EP, The Drifter and the Dream part 1, Townsend explores the modern world and all of its rough edges with this exceptional collection of songs. They’re accessible and catchy, but they also pack important messages and something altogether lacking in much new music today– depth.
It’s also a release heavy on Americana. But even while he’s busy infusing the record with sonic flourishes that take you back to better days where Bob Dylan was king, Townsend flips that idea on its head by searching much harder than early folk pioneers. There’s a sheer lack of complacency here, and this music is all the better because of it. Townsend isn’t afraid to poke his finger on the black spots of his country’s history, including allegories to the hectic mess going on in the States at the present. Like Bruce Springsteen and Woodie Guthrie before him, Townsend channels in elements of folk, rock, and roots to create a great sound that doubles as a magnifying glass on his country’s pulse.
Townsend’s sound rounds out his earlier solo artist schtick to a full band makeup here. This music benefits by the use of organ, synth, cello, and other beautiful components that all help to set the tone and create a perfect landscape for his lyrics. Townsend, of course, pens all of these songs himself, which makes them even stronger in terms of communicating a strong message. The tunes here will elicit major emotional responses with the social climate as shaky as it is, but we really need artists like Matt Townsend right now to help balance the scale of democracy one way or another.
On the title track “The Drifter and The Dream”, Townsend intends to search for honesty and finding his place, doing some soul searching over a pristine string solo and a sharp, stunning percussionist complimenting his vocal. He attempts to nullify all the negativity of the “poison of the world” and its fake pretences (“Hey, gotta find a way to make an honest place in the masquerade / Hey gotta stay awake, feel our hearts and build a brand new way”). Later, the blatantly titled “Freedom Is Calling Again” holds a bit of an optimism in the palm of its hand while sneering at the jarring world head on.
These songs are certainly simple, but that’s what keeps them interesting. There is nothing superfluous here or anything added in just for the sake of doing so. The music is calculated in a stripped down format and only adorned with necessary components.
The mix of instruments accompanying Townsend lend well to his voice, but they also add additional layers to this music’s potency. When the songs slip into softer, downtempo territory, like the simpler, minimalistic closer “Katie”, Townsend is accompanied by a sole guitar strumming a single chord. It’s reassuring and impressive to know that he doesn’t need the fireworks of a full band to get his message across or to cover his voice. In fact, Townsend’s vocal is front and center here and sounds even better than when the full band is roaring behind him, so it’s nice he included a more stripped down tune to close out the EP.
Freedom is on Matt Townsend’s mind, and as he strums his harmonica in between verses, we are reminded of all the important folk artists born out of tumultuous political eras. This might just be Matt Townsend’s big moment, and the more people that hear this voice and the messages it sings, the better.
Listen to Matt Townsend’s “Came Down from the Mountain” ahead of the EP The Drifter and the Dream part 1‘s December 2 2016 release, courtesy of Matt’s Bandcamp page, below. Be sure to check out Matt Townsend on Facebook and Matt Townsend’s official website.