Show Preview: Mason Jennings @ The Parish (1/21)

Date 1/21/11
Location The Parish
Doors 8pm
Tickets $22 @ Frontgate

Great singer songwriter type show going down at The Parish on Saturday night featuring ATH favorite Mason Jennings and songwriter Jillian Edwards.  As always, Saturday night in Austin has plenty of shows to choose from, but this one should definitely be on your radar if it isn’t already.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/09/mjfightergirl.mp3]

Download: Mason Jennings – Fighter Girl [MP3]

New Folk Hit from Musikanto

One man’s love for fast rock n’ roll can only take him so far, so I’ve always got to have some folk or melodramatic jams to help me unwind.  Recently I’ve been introduced to Musikanto, a Chicago songwriter who will likely be making a name for himself all over the country soon. Press releases hint at Van Morrison and Ryan Adams connections, and I definitely see that there, but I also see little pieces of early Mason Jennings.  It’s heartfelt and honest, and there’s a willingness to provide a good narrative, even from a first-person point of view.  Looking for something mellower today? This could be your jam; you can grab it, as well as the rest of the songs from his Sky of Dresses album on August 2nd via Grape Juice Records.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Musikanto-Every-Which-Way.mp3]

Download: Musikanto – Every Which Way [MP3]

Daniel Martin Moore – In The Cool of the Day

Rating: ★★★ · ·

When Sub Pop sent out the press release, they told of a man possessed by a Steinway inside a Cincinnati radio station.  If this is possession, perhaps we shouldn’t be so inclined to shy away from such things because this new record from Daniel Martin Moore, In the Cool of the Day, is quite beautiful–perhaps not everyone’s cup of tea, but you can see the genius clearly.

Honestly, writing gospel songs for those outside the gospel seems a bit odd to me, but the entirety of In the Cool of the Day has Moore reinventing classics he heard growing up, or going it on his own. For instance, “Dark Road” definitely has that swing in the step you would envision being sung in some Southern Baptist  church. The string instruments definitely provide that bluegrass feeling at the same time, so you get a bit of both life in church and outside.

He’s got some funky elements thrown in, demonstrating that Moore is out to illustrate his talent as a compser/songwriter.  “In the Garden” has some light hi-hat, and that walking bass line that many will immediately associate with jazz.  But, Daniel has this angelic voice, and his control over pitch and tone really allows him to pull some honest emotions out of listeners. However, it’s his numbers when he sounds more like the elemental folk musician from Kentucky that really piqued my interest.

For instance, you can take “Up Above My Head,” and apply it to more modern artists such as Mason Jennings, though this definitely doesn’t have that humorous pep Jennings carries.  It’s got a funky little groove that sort of pushes it on, yet there’s a definite pop feel to the way Daniel Martin Moore sings the vocal that takes it beyond a mere gospel song.  It even has a bit of a banjo/guitar breakdown near the end.  These things don’t really apply to church tracks, the ones I know, at least.  The title track, “In the Cool of the Day,” also goes beyond church, although it relies predominantly on the piano backbone to elevate the solemn melody.  Still, Moore uses his voice as a tool to take the track somewhere else, almost like Sufjan Stevens

Personally, “It Is Well With My Soul” hits a note for me, and that’s probably because it’s the most recognizable gospel track that I know of, as I haven’t been much of a church goer in some time. Perhaps I can envision myself singinig this at some campfire, with my father playing his guitar, trying to get the family involved.  This is pretty much the way a lot of people will feel about In the Cool of the Day. You take a religious background, even a mild exposure, and you elaborate, almost pushing the spirit out of the church doors and into the rest of the world. This is precisely what Daniel Martin Moore has done, and while I may not be your favorite listen this year, it’s assuredly worth several spins around the record player.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/dmm.mp3]

Download: Daniel Martin Moore – Dark Road [MP3]

New Music From Mason Jennings

It seems that we missed this new Mason Jennings song when it first came out so we thought it was a good time to go on and share it with you kids.  The track “Dakota” appears on new album The Flood which hit stores recently and can be purchased online.  You can of course expect a proper review of the new album coming soon.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/01-Dakota.mp3]

Download: Mason Jennings – Dakota [MP3]

Mason Jennings – Blood of Man

mason

Rating: ★★★½ ·

When Mason Jennings first released In the Ever, I couldn’t have been more disappointed.  The album seemed forced and overproduced–it lacked all the personality that I felt made Mason Jennings so special.  I even vowed never to give him my money again, unless I previewed his work prior to purchase.  Well, I gave in to my longing for Mason and got my hands on Blood of Man.

Upon the first listen all the way through, I paused momentarily, trying to wrap my head around the record, almost confused.  I came to the decision that this album seemed like a collection of really good demos.  There was an evident rawness to the writing, and the recording (drums especially) that brought back a whole lot of that character that sparked the flame of fandom within me so long ago.

Sure, the first song sort of seems like Mason is channeling that Eddie Vedder character people are so into, but the rest of the album wears that warmth of his vocal inflection that makes his music seem so unique.  Everything about Blood of Man seems completely natural and not forced.  This is more Use Your Voice era Mason than it is anything else, and I’m frankly relieved to see him heading back to that hallowed ground.

That being said, there are some odd missteps here, and I don’t necessary see them as bad things, but just really unexpected moments.  For instance, “Ain’t No Friend of Mine” appears like a sort of Dead Weather stomp with a splash of Mason.  Even his vocals have a little hint of Mr. White. Still, the dude’s been putting out tunes, so you can’t blame him for trying something entirely new.  Just be happy he seems to have steered far away from the land of Jack Johnson and other like-minded hacks.

What comes as a great surprise on this album is that Mason Jennings wraps it up perfectly by including some of his best efforts, as of late, on the end of the album.  You won’t find a more fitting tune for resolving personal crisis than “Lonely Road.”  And ending the entire record with “Blood of Man” shows how the simplest tunes are still the heart and soul of this singer/songwriter.  It’s just he and a guitar, and I guess that’s the way it always seems like it should have been.

So it seems that Mason Jennings has come around full circle.  He’s back to where he began, though with a bit of growth and maturity beneath his belt.  It makes this a great addition to his entire catalogue.  I’m glad I picked up Blood of Man.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/the-field-1.mp3]

Download: Mason Jennings – The Field [MP3]

ACL Preview: Mason Jennings

Mason Jennings has been through his ups and downs as a songwriter, but mostly he’s been on the ups. His incredible vocals always lead those in his mass followings, such as Issac Brock of Modest Mouse, to a pleasurable listening experience. The crowds at Austin City Limits will surely be witness to his magic when he takes to the Austin Ventures stage this Saturday at 6:30. Read more after the jump.. Read more

Mason Jennings – In The Ever

Rating: ★★★ · ·

Mason Jennings has long been the troubadour of my heart. From the first listen of his self-titled album–which would probably go in my Top 50 list–he had won me over. There was fire and originality, something I had yet to come across from others in the same genre of music. I buy every album; I am a loyal fan.

However, I finally feel that Mason and I are through. I feel it has been coming for a long time; I think now it is officially time for the two of us to part ways. Finally I feel as if he arrived at a point completely on the opposite end of the promise he once showed.

I first noticed this departure in common ground on his last album Boneclouds, which felt a little over-produced, and by that I mean everything sounded really clean. It didn’t feel as intimate as his past albums had. Not to mention there were throw away songs.

What about the new one? Well, I found several throw away songs, in fact, I found one in “I Love You and Buddha Too.” I understand the search for spirituality, and the welcoming of all religions-as we should–but this is quite possibly the worst song I’ve heard all year. You can add to the list of throwaway songs “How Deep is That River.” Sorry Mason old pal, but you have so much more.

I don’t want to slam this record entirely because I feel like there are some promising moments. For instance, “Memphis, Tennesee” has the heart and soul of earlier recordings, and the opening track, “Never Knew Your Name,” does hold onto some of those intimate moments that I feel like Mason and I shared in the past.

Unfortunately, this album has drawn a line in the sand. I’m now going across to that side where I can no longer afford to buy Mason albums on our old bond alone. If you like Mason Jennings, or singer\songwriters, then you most likely will find some solace in this album, but I don’t think this is an album that will win him a lot of new fans–it might lose him some old ones.

Hear “Fighter Girl” off the new album In The Ever
[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/04-fighter-girl.mp3]

Download: fightergirl.mp3