Most people who hail from Martha’s Vineyard wouldn’t know the first thing about making a deep, down to earth record let alone much about the complexities of life itself. But this is not the case with their own native son Willy Mason, the 20 year old boy wonder who, on his long awaited debut, has displayed that he is more well-seasoned, both vocally and musically, than most counterparts within his age range. He’s even surpassed some musicians who are twice his age. Mason plays, in some aspect, like a sage hobo who is wandering the land, his songs containing that peculiar realistic grit that the likes of Johnny Cash, Woody Guthrie, and Phil Ochs were known for. He can be viewed in one of two ways. One could be that he was born about forty to fifty years too late, as it seems like he would have been an integral part of the ’60s folk scene. But on the other hand, the music world today needs Mason’s deeply intricate and sometimes intellectually witty songwriting style.
The opener “Gotta Keep Moving” is a slab of some nominally foreboding down home, rustic twang, yet on tracks like “All You Can Do,” among others on the album, Mason manages to express his words in a banter/singing hybrid. He is singing to you but in a way that seems as if he is having a really deep one-on-one conversation with the listener as to convey a message or tell a story.
“Still a Fly” comes off as mildly ho-hum but is immediately followed by the delicately applied symphonic wistfulness of the title track, and the blues-meets-old timey spiritual flow of “Fear No Pain.” What makes Mason’s folky edge so unique is the somewhat cynical edge that his voice veers off onto. In other words, it’s not so much what he says but how he says it. He conveys deeper ruminations that ponder life with a poetic fringe. Case in point: the tell-tale line from “Oxygen” that really says it all, “I want to speak louder than Ritalin for all the children that think they’ve got a disease.”
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