Willy Mason - If the Ocean Gets Rough

2007-10-09 16:38
Three years later and Mason is back, a bit older and still charmingly melodramatic, but just as addictive. Themed around survival in a treacherous world (no change there), this second album sticks to what won him so many fans. On track one he updates us. He’s back where he belongs “In trouble’s arms / Singing Mama’s songs”. He explores different aspects of his struggle against an oppressive, sterile world order - run your eyes over the song titles, and it’s easy to see. Not that it’s all heavy. There’s a smile in “Save Myself”, though a it’s an extremely wry one.

It all comes together with force in the bewitching “Simple Town” - a black and white song that’s dreamlike and startling. “It’s a simple town / with a lonely sound / There’s demons in the trees”. This damning condemnation of a culture that elects stupidity president is followed swiftly by “The End of the Race”, which seems to be about the moment in a mugging when someone realises how precious their life is. “I see the ocean rolling fast / I see the grass I see the grass”.
But soon you realise these songs are both about the same thing. In fact, that every song he’s ever written is about the same thing – a refusal to bend to the will of the bully.

Sure it’s the lyrics that get you, but the music was born with them, and increased skill brings with it the ability to really transport you. Mason’s guitar and piano work’s grown polished without losing it’s touch, and brother Sam Mason’s accompanying percussion is more subtly inflected, Mason’s songwriting has grown less charmingly quirky, his key shifts and melodic colouring more disarmingly fluid and glowing. Best of all, he still sings like he’s telling the truth.

Give this album time to work. It’s good medicine.

- Jean Barker

Willy Mason’s first album Where the Humans Eat left every folk-rock fan dewy-eyed with excitement. And now that Conor Oberst (who discovered Willy) has disappointed us , If the Ocean Gets Rough is just the cure.

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