I think today, we’re afraid of vulnerability. At the very least, we’re uncomfortable with someone expressing their vulnerability because it’s a brave thing to do. We want to experience these moments in private, and we all know the feeling of finding an album we clutch tightly and feel like it’s speaking to us directly. I’m not married, nor am I a father, but I have a close relationship to my Mom and my sister who’s a recent mother and when you’re privy to that world, even when you think you won’t ever really live in it (I don’t want kids), you end up feeling something so cut closely, it feels like it becomes a part of you.
With songs about the loss of a young relative, the birth of his child, the chronicling of his marriage, depression, addiction, and a DNA results discovery that truly rocked his world, singer/songwriter Chris St. John has made one of the defining albums I would describe as truly vulnerable and a musical highlight this year. Having primarily a background in law has played damn near judge, jury, and executioner (I kid, but has been a prosecutor, judge, and practicing attorney, which WOW that’s a lot), he’s now switched his attention to crafting music that’s helped encapsulate the last 30 years of his life. St. John says that the album title I’m Dreaming comes from an abundance of inspiration from dreams, both at night and in the day, and just general fantasies he’s thought that have reinforced his view on life.
The irony of which is that for an album primarily inspired and built from the back of dreams, it’s painfully realistic in ins portrayals of family, love, and loss specifically. Sometimes it’s tricky when you find an artist who’s incredibly talented, but somehow has nothing to say. Songs that feel like they’ve come from the “song machine”, but you gain no insight or take anything away from a narrative perspective. St. John is an easy remedy to this. His songs are like stepping into a movie theater of the mind as we sonically play through all these heady experiences, complete with reprieves, sound effects, and even an end-credits theme. Another enjoyable aspect is that despite having a delightful starting country song, the precise genre of the album is hard to put your finger on. They are not-quite rock ballads despite having structural similarities and impressive hooks, and they’re certainly cut from the cloth of classic country what with the harrowing narratives (not enough young people realize that country came from gothic and hardship storytelling before it was trucks and blondes), and the near unorthodox choice of instrumental breaks leaves it is almost on the cusp of a personal concept album, the instrumentation just being a raw emotional extension of St. John.
St. John has a full heart, and his losses reinforce his wins, and he’s given back a lot in his life, having started nonprofit charities to help the poor throughout the world, and I think ultimately even through the pain he’s felt, his dream is of love and hope. It’s not an album we deserve in a way, but an album that we need to remind ourselves of the ups and downs of being human. Truly vulnerable.