Tuesday, February 22, 2011

John-Alex Mason "Jook Joint Thunderclap"

John-Alex Mason's new release came out on February 15. This is the sixth full-length release for this Boulder, Colorado based one man band. Yes, I said one man band. According to his website, Mason started out as a singer, then learned guitar, then learned to play drums to get people dancing. On this self-produced disc Mason plays guitar and kick drums and harmonica, and fully 6 of the ten songs are played on his one man band rig. Mason is also assisted by Andy Irvine on bass, Gerry Hundt on harmonica and mandolin and nine-string guitar, Cedric Burnside on drums, Cody Burnside on vocals, Lightnin' Malcolm on guitar and bass, and Lionel Young on fiddle and bass. Of the ten songs, six are either written or co-written by Mason. He also covers Robert Johnson's "If You've Got A Good Friend," Oscar Brown's "Signifying Monkey," Fred McDowell's "Write Me A Few Of Your Lines," and rearranges and adds lyrics to the public domain song "Rolled and Tumbled."

So how does it sound? I really like this cd. It's played in Mississippi hill country style--fans of Moreland and Arbuckle or JJ & Mofro or Otis Taylor will find much here that speaks to them. Mason brings a freshness and an energy to the proceedings. The playing is crisp and tight, but never stiff or fussy. Special cudos go to Gerry Hundt's harmonica floating over a deep bed of great percussion in "Riding On," (which includes about 10 seconds of rapping and might be the best song here) Lionel Young's fine fiddle work in "Diamond Rain" and Cedric Burnside's very good drumming in "Write Me A Few Of your Lines."

By the way, there are two free bonus tracks available at Mason's website that are well worth picking up--he calls them tracks "zero" which is the song "Delta Bound" and "eleven" which is "When You've Got A Good Friend."

You can buy this cd at John-Alex's website http://www.johnalexmason.com

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