Review: John-Alex Mason – Town and Country
Posted on: Tuesday, Feb 26, 2008
“Town And Country”
The latest release from the Colorado-raised John-Alex Mason supplies an engaging mix of Delta blues and his own compositions, which touch on many bases, including his love of the North Mississippi hill blues – neatly divided into the electric “Town” half, complete with foot drums, and the more acoustic, rootsy “Country” section, featuring his resonator guitar.
Mason’s path to the blues was initially shaped by the classic album, Muddy Waters “Hard Again”, and when working as a military contractor in Europe, he took to busking in Germany, France and Holland – which was pivotal in the one-man-band element in his music.
I was immediately taken with his great voice – with its smoky tones seeming to come from way back – although it may not be to everyone’s taste! His guitar playing, however, is most appealing – with his electric work having a real chunky tone, especially the four-string Lowebox cigar box guitar.
A generous fifteen tracks are ‘bookended’ by the Delta classic, “Shake ‘Em On Down” – interestingly with the electric version before the acoustic tracks, and vice-versa. Amongst the other covers are songs by masters such as Robert Johnson and Charley Patton, “Terraplane Blues” and “Boll Weevil” respectively; and a splendid “Jitterbug Swing” – with the four-string guitar laying down a great groove.
Amongst his own compositions are his modern response to Charley Patton’s “Pony Blues” – “Steel Pony Blues”, and his post-Katrina song for New Orleans, “Chef Menteur” – very nice indeed.
The one-man band rig kicks up a storm on the old chestnut, “Shake Your Moneymaker”, with the Skip James tune, “Cypress Grove” getting the same treatment – indeed, this is one Mason’s favourite songs to perform in this mode.
A new name to me, and one I would thoroughly recommend to all – especially for fans of the Fat Possum musicians, and established UK visitors such as Kent DuChaine and Catfish Keith – check it out!
For further information check out www.johnalexmason.com
There are, of course, YouTube clips. Both electric
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