Back in 2004, I first heard Willy Mason when he released his debut album Where the Humans Eat. Above all, the record showcases Mason’s unhurried, rumbling singing delivery and whip-smart lyrics that have remained the defining characteristics of his music. I can clearly remember clicking play on my Sony Discman and listening to “Still a Fly,” a song marked by its verbose verses contrasted by wide-open choruses (also, who pens a lyric and name-drops Dostoysevsky ever besides Willy here?)
After almost ten years and only one other full length, a few EPs, and a handful of collaborations in between, Mason returned this year to record and release Carry On with help from Ben Lovett of Mumford & Sons and his Communion Records label. Lucky for us, Mason has not been idle in the past decade, to let his craft erode and rust away. He’s as sharp as ever, keeping it all tight with a collection of songs each under four minutes long, save the atmospheric jam “Restless Fugitive.” On Carry On, Mason has traded in the raw, unbridled live sound of his debut for studio upgrades, electric guitars, bouncing drum loops, and Tom Waits-like percussion. The effect is that it paints the songs in different hues and tones, but at the core, at the very heart of the album, and always carrying on, are Willy’s lyrics and voice, like a lonesome traveler not yet home.
On our Folkadelphia Session, Willy Mason, with the help of Nina Violet on violin and backing vocals, strips away some of the adornments on songs from Carry On and we’re left with what drew me to him originally – sonorous singing and masterful storytelling.