(Noisetrade) This week, over on Noisetrade Willy Mason is offering his EP Don’t Stop Now for free, or as a ‘tip-what-you-choose’ basis. The four tracks are lifted from his full-length album Carry On, and they arrive as a useful reference to the vision of the artist, and as an inspiration for European fans to check out a show on the upcoming tour.
Having introduced himself to the world via the G-Ma’s basement EP – which featured a handful of solo acoustic tracks - Mason took the cottage industry approach of selling his wares independently online, and from merch tables at early gigs. Signing to Virgin Records opened up broader distribution and an impressive debut. Where the Humans Eat Mason was better received overseas than in his native USA. Lead single “Oxygen” from that album was an anthemic acoustic joint of a disenfranchised but optimistic generation. The thing was a stripped-down manifesto that may well have been bigger than the artist. The appeal of the song was that it was simple enough to inspire a sing-along, but nuanced enough to distance itself from those in the audience that didn’t get it. Mason arrived with a natural talent and as a lyricist for the initiated, a singer with unaffected, unpretentious characterful appeal.
It’s been nine years and only three albums since that debut, but Willy Mason has remained as prolific as he is understated. There have been a string of EPs and some high profile support slots for the likes of Beth Orton and Radiohead, and he has leant his striking vocal tones to other artists sessions like Lianne La Havas, Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan.
Don’t Stop Now is a solid nugget of tracks from an artist who appears to always deliver a condensed account of emotions. This release stands as a sample of excellence that sometimes gets away from music fans in the cacophony of more commercially broadcast releases. More obviously percussive than previous releases, and with an added weight of aged perspective these tunes are just as stirring, and every bit as emotive as those earlier, youthful dispatches. The vision is more mature, less hurried and better rounded.
“Restless Fugitive” is laid out on a bed of distorted angles, as an electric guitar reverbs across a steady tempo – it’s a haunting, hallucinatory trip. Lyrics address a man on the run, perhaps no longer alive. The tracks are laid out for over six minutes and sometimes the meaning gets away from you. It’s an odd, pleasing yet slightly unsettling trance as repeated lines drift away from original intentions.
Aside from Mason’s easy route to everyday weirdness and his lyrical precision when overturning obvious truths, his real strength is in finding the most enigmatic path through a melody. There’s a bewitching element in pretty much each of these four tracks.
What this free EP achieves is to present a fragment of a larger whole. These tunes project the seductive possibilities of modern, gritty folk. There’s an urban sharpness, an old-school country twang and a sober type of Bukowski brilliance to some of this stuff.
Standout Tracks: "Don't Stop", "Restless Fugitive"
For Fans Of: Hayden, Elliott Smith