Sorry for the long silence. It seems like things have just been a little bit hectic the last couple weeks, what with Logan starting his new job and me getting my dental school applications together. Our sincerest apologies, we’ll try and re-align our priorities in the coming weeks…
So just a quick run-down. On Wednesday we got to see Mason Jennings perform in Salt Lake along with Missy Higgins and Brett Dennen. Of course, the show turned out to an amazing one. Missy, whom I was the least familiar with, put on a great opening set, full of smiles and stomping feet. She even took a request that was slipped on her keyboard by a few avid front-row fans. Brett got up on stage and luckily for us, he was just as awkwardly endearing as I had always heard. For such a humongous man, he was light on his toes (and we know, because he had no shoes), and grooved through his entire set. I’d also like to present him the award for “dorkiest band that I’ve ever seen” – and that’s even including all the bands I played with in in high school, which is saying something. Then came Mason, who was all business as usual, but never fails to put on a great show. He favored material from his new album (which had come out the day before), but played a great mix of songs that spanned his entire discography. Sadly, we didn’t hear some of his live staples- Bullet, The Mountain, or Godless, but with some new crowd pleasers like I love you and Buddha too, and Your New Man, it really didn’t feel like anything was missing. So here’s the set:
Nothing/Keepin’ it real/Be here now/Living in the moment/Butterfly/Something about your love/Fighter girl/Your new man/Darkness between the fireflies/Adrian/Jackson Square/I love you and Buddha too/Soldier Boy/Crown
Encore: How deep is that river?/Ulysses/Ballad for my one true love
So it was a great show. But now down to business – a quick review of Mason’s new album, In the Ever (Amazon/iTunes). His first on Brushfire Records, I’ll admit I became a little bit worried after hearing that there was indeed the obligatory Jack Johnson cameo thrown in the mix. Well, consider this my repentance, I should have trusted Mason all along. It turns out that the one Mr. Johnson turns up on, ‘I Love You and Buddha Too’, is one of the album’s funnest moments – a foot-stomping, hand-clapping ode to peace and religious tolerance. All around, the album is a step back from Boneclouds in production terms, having been recorded almost entirely by Mason himself in a cabin in Minnesota, in the same vein as his first few homespun records. The album opens up with the bouncy but kind of strange ‘Never Knew Your Name’ – a song that lets itself get lost in ambient piano and chimes a few times. It got a raised eyebrow from me on the first listen, but a smile by the second. Songs like ‘Something About Your Love’ and ‘Soldier Boy’ are vintage Mason and would’ve sounded at home on Birds Flying Away or Century Spring. ‘Fighter Girl’ is great, and the only one that has Mason’s full supporting band playing with him. Chris Morissey (who played with Mason on my personal favorite, Use Your Voice) shows up on the grand ol’ opry-esque ‘Memphis, Tennessee’, and we get to hear a live version of ‘Your New Man’ as well, a silly and sarcastic acoustic number, akin to ‘Bullet’ or ‘Beautiful Man’. ‘Going Back to New Orleans’ is short and kind of hypnotic, with a chugging drumbeat and four harmonicas blowing the same note at random times. The album closes out with an oldie that finally surfaced, ‘In Your City’, a moment-in-time piano piece that we originally heard on the Use Your Van DVD a few years back.
Finally, my personal highlight has to be ‘How Deep is that River?’, with its quiet guitar and pump organ, its one of the prettiest points on In the Ever – a spiritual entreaty and pseudo-answer to Boneclouds ‘Jesus Are You Real?’. That song (‘Jesus Are You Real?’) has come to be one of my very favorites of all time, and is probably one of the most beautifully and starkly honest songs ever written. A search for truth and a reaching for something greater than ourselves, ‘Jesus’ left off with the feeling that Mason was starting a spiritual journey – in ‘How Deep is that River?’, he sounds like he’s well into that journey and is simply asking for an assurance that where he’s headed is where he wants to be.
Although it’s not as immediately striking as some of my old favorites from Mason, In the Ever is a solid album that I’m sure will only grow on me more, and that’s well worth your dollars.