No one really understands why it is that Willy Mason hasn’t achieved greater success; having released three albums in the last ten years to modest critical acclaim, it seems strange that he hasn’t shaken the “under the radar” status. This is made even stranger when you do discover his music: each track tinged with his trademark folk/country sound, made intimate, tender, with a voice one can only describe as ‘golden’ and completely individual.
Mason’s first effort, his 2004 debut ‘Where the Humans Eat’ sees a then 19-year-old embrace a traditional Americana-folk sound: tracks ‘Gotta Keep Movin’, ‘Fear No Pain’, ‘Where The Humans Eat’ are heavily lead by simple guitar licks and minimalist drum beats, driving the songs along. The sparse texture is, however, filled with Mason’s deadpan singing style. Many of the tracks on this album see Mason telling personal anecdotes; ‘Where The Humans Eat’ becomes a direct address to the singer’s pet cat: “I have been working all f**king day/ you lie there sleeping your life away”. When listening to Willy Mason it becomes clear that he has a skill with words; each of the songs on this album contain great lyrical quips, on ‘still a fly’ the singer states “But still, you’re just a kid/ You shouldn’t read Dostoefsky at your age/ That and nicotine will make you pale and lean/ And twist your face like Mr. Grays”. It is perhaps on the album’s lead single ‘Oxygen’ where the singer provides us with his best lyrical content, the song acts as a sort of protest against modern America, calling for the people to come together: “Do you remember the forgotten America?/ Justice, equality, freedom to every race/ Just need to get past all the lies and hypocrisy/ Make up an heir to the truth behind every face/ That look around to all the people you see/ How many of them are happy and free?” The song’s simple, acoustic-led, instrumental perfectly accompanying Mason’s poetic lyricism.
While the artist’s second album ‘When The Ocean Gets Rough’ saw Mason branch out instrumentally, songs like ‘The World That I Wanted’ and ‘Save Myself’ feature a wider instrumental arrangement, it is 2012’s ‘Carry On’ which see’s the artist change sonically. Teaming up with a renowned electronic producer, Dan Carey (Hot Chip, MIA) the artist has began to embrace a more electronic direction; songs like “Pickup Truck” see Mason’s familiar guitar lead become accompanied by a sea of synths, electronic dub-like beats and distorted keys. Songs ‘Restless Fugitive” and “Talk Me Down” feature Tom Waits-esque primal drum beats. It is the albums lead single “I Got Gold”, however, which combines traditional Americana-folk writing with modern electronic accompaniment. Genius.