In November of 2003, at the Knitting Factory, I saw Willy Mason with his brother Sam Mason on drums open for Bright Eyes. He won that audience over, especially me. He casually said at the end of the set, “I have like five CDs in the back if anyone is interested" I think he recorded them before the show. I had to see him again and again. Everything about him captured my attention, his guitar playing, informed writing, and relaxed and authentic manner. He has a gift for melody. I love how he plays the guitar using resonating and alternating bass notes. He adds strumming and picking with interludes of harmonic surprises down the fret. Although he is 21 years old, his voice sounds weathered and worn. While listening to his lyrics, it is evident that he is curious, smart, and well-read. He exposes social and political hypocrisy as he searches for deeper meaning and understanding of life’s daunting conflicts. He weaves a personal subtext within his songwriting while tackling poverty, war, materialism, and hedonism. It is the inference that adds weight and gives the lyrics cerebral edginess. Leaving the listener's brain in overdrive.
I've seen him live eight times in different settings alone, with Nina Violet on viola and an assortment of players working on his freshman CD "Where the Humans Eat." The most recent touring band includes Nina, Sam Mason on drums, Colin Ruel on guitar, and Farley Glavin on bass. They just finished an 18-stop tour opening for Radiohead in May and June 2006. I was lucky to see the band play the Living Room on July 21st, 2006. The set included all new material except for one song. The melodies, time changes, and lyrics were memorable. The band sounded strong and confident. There was something different about Willy. He seemed more determined and serious. This time rather than being discovered, he seemed ready and eager to present his music. Check out his new site called G-ma's Basement It is a home-based online retailer selling local music from the Island of Martha's Vineyard. This includes some of Willy's live sessions with cousin Zak Borden and past releases of Willy and his talented mother, Jemima James. "Equal parts hobo and Holden Caufield, nineteen-year-old Willy Mason blends precocious lyricism, spare, jangly guitar, and a world-weary voice that sounds older than his years." - Rolling Stone