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Willy Mason - Where the Humans Eat

2006-03-29 21:56

Like any good artist-cum-activist, Mason balances his complaints and anger with humorous self-awareness. "Why won't you listen / When I stamp my feet" he pouts on the title track (the song is apparently written to his cat) . And he shows his age with guileless charm in lyrics like "In the worried eyes of our parents", his rich, often harsh vocals reminiscent of Waiting for the Sun -era Jim Morrison.

Mason has already been compared to some of America's left wing musical heroes - and to Leonard Cohen in particular, thanks to the startling similarity between Mason's and Cohen's sound on "Still a Fly".

But although his heritage is apparent, he doesn't copy straight - his relaxed delivery is unpretentious and natural, letting the meaning of songs come through without drawing attention to any musical style. Mason's lyrics are meaningful, but steer clear of that annoyingly trite cleverness, and stultifying dogmatism so common on the left wing popular music scene.

He writes a lot about inequality, bigotry, the ludicrousness of group anti-conformism, and the guilt and fear felt by those of us who have more than we need.

But it's not all gloom and doom. Other far more moving tracks are full of stubborn hope for the future - take "Oxygen": "I want to hold my head up with dignity / proud of a life where to give means more than to take" in which he sings of a "forgotten America" that stood for justice and freedom. Ridiculously politically naive? Perhaps. Beautiful? Oh, unbelievably so.

If you own CDs by Leonard Cohen, The Doors, Bob Dylan, Bright Eyes, SA's own James Phillips, or SA's adopted son, Rodriguez, you may already be a Willy Mason fan. He's a promising talent, and Where the Humans Eat is a passionate album rich in the best blues and folk influences.

- Jean barker


"...there's a sense he's aware of how his precociousness might appear, and you can't help but warm to him."
- David Peschek

"...anyone who can develop a song and album title from his pet cats' feeding time is likely to be entertaining us for years to come. When all is said and done, you're chances of finding a more assured and promising debut this year are pretty slim."
- Peter Hayward for

"Mason's lo-fi blues/folk blend is refreshingly humble and unostentatious."
- Brian Howe for Pitchforkmedia

Although he tackles serious topics like homelessness, sings autumnal blues like a Woodstock-era folk hero, and has been compared to Leonard Cohen and Dylan, Willy Mason is just 20 years old, and made this album aged 19. A friend of Conor Oberst (the latest folk golden boy) "discovered" Mason, and got him his first big recording and distribution deal. Mason shares Oberst's opposition to the current warlike world and "every man for himself" failure of ethics in US politics.

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