North Carolinian folk artist, Matt Townsend, having previously released an EP and LP, and been featured on a compilation album with the Asheville Symphony Orchestra, is working on a new double EP called ‘The Drifter and the Dream’. Lucky enough to get my hands on ‘The Drifter and the Dream (Part I), I’ve given a listen to this five-track EP of spacey, semi-electric, yet classic Carolinian Americana that Townsend is set to release on December 2, 2017. First performing in Burlington, Vermont, this solemn, and solitary-sounding folk singer has been peddling his original music across the United States since 2012, and has settled in Asheville, North Carolina.
Kicking off the album with ‘The Great American Madness‘, Townsend seems to twist a more country-fied version of John Denver, with some late Dylan, almost attempting to throw some of Dylan’s signature vocal lilts and lyrics, to sure up Townsend’s own unique qualities. A seemingly somber lament about the bloody beginnings of the United States, and its current lacking progress, “the new world in denial”, Townsend really captures a sense of the fading empire that America has become. Some simply sweet harmonies meet in the chorus to give a glimpse of the beauty that still pervades somehow, but the sparsity of it is clear.
Townsend ‘Came Down From The Mountain‘, to give us a bit of haunting Neil Young vibes, sharing with us yet again the degradation of the Western world; searching for love, with tortured hope. A solace discovered in the love of the Earth, and the shying away from civilization, discovering a peace in nature, free from all the deception and despondency: “Gotta find a way to make an honest place in the masquerade”…perhaps my favourite lyric of the EP, this harrowing tune of a search for truth and love in a world of fanciful facade is heart-wrenching. That sparse bit of harmony coupled with the constant and quiet cello, played by Franklin Keel, lift this track up in a most uniquely morose and munificent way.
‘Roaming Twilight‘, Matt Townsend really knows how to deliver a sweetly sorrowful that brings one to tears, while lifting them up with joy. There are always glimpses of hope in his rather doleful lyrics. Almost bringing a 90′s, Collective Soul or Creed feel into the shift midway through the song, with the strings ever present, on a lyrical search for something unknown, Townsend might draw out tracks with Dylan-like repetition, but somehow, if one focuses on the woeful, and wonderful words, one is captured, and cares little about said repetition.
In the tradition of 60′ protest, ‘Freedom Is Calling Again‘, with a notable attempt to capture Dylan’s vocal nuances, and semi-electric, keys laden, choir-chorused tracks, typical of the times. Even down to the slight organ. But there is a true Townsend touch here with the lap-steel, and quite country guitar solo. This is a type of tune that is certainly found to be desired these days.
Oh ‘Katie‘ opens with a hard gust of harmonica huffing. No album is complete without a sorrowful song of love. The simplicity of this song is what gives it such incredible weight. Wisely pulling all but acoustic guitar, vocals, and the occasional blow on the harmonica, the raw emotion of this song is so prevalent that it leaves the listener looping the track, unable to pull themselves from the languid lyrics of the heart-broken drifter, and his broken American dream.
Happy to have had an early listen to this EP, I’m frustrated by having to wait for ‘The Drifter and the Dream (Part II). Matt Townsend really encapsulates the, so far, un-prevailing zeitgeist of those pining people who refuse to wither away in apathy. Do check out and share this EP when it drops on December 2nd, and until then, enjoy the singles released thus far. Keep up to date with Matt Townsend right over HERE!