Mason – Midnight Road


Rock and roll, particularly the bluesy variety, is far from dead. Arizona’s Mason provides evidence of that. Their debut full length album includes ten strong, ballsy songs that embrace the genre with inspiration and imagination. Featuring two multi-instrumentalists in vocalist/guitarist Jacob Acosta and bassist Johnny Zapp, plus virtuoso drummer Andre Gressieux, Midnight Road sounds like the result of three old hands in this genre hitting upon a particularly winning collection of songs. The songwriting on albums like this can, sometimes, prove to be a hit or miss proposition. Many songwriters and performers, self-conscious about the style’s long and icon laden history, often resort to invoking their long split up betters in an attempt to connect with listeners or seemingly play to particular age groups, but Mason aren’t like that at all. Instead, the ten songs on Midnight Road glow and burn with fierce individuality and instrumental prowess that goes far beyond mere parody or loving imitation.

Mason gets Midnight Road off to a particularly memorable start with “Rockstar Paperboy”. This is a rhythmically challenging, musically inventive piece that comes at listeners with personality galore and a highly individual take on the genre apparent from the song’s opening notes. Jacob Acosta’s guitar work is one of the great strengths of Midnight Road, but his vocals shouldn’t be underestimated. They certainly give this song a particular spin going far beyond the usual efforts in this style. “I Bet You Know” is a bluesy bloodletting committed to recording. There’s some nice melodic touches heard throughout the duration of the song, but it has a much more wrenching evolution that continues ramping up from the outset and pays off handsomely. Mason have a firm command of blues music’s dramatic possibilities and exploit them without ever losing touch with any sort of artistry. This isn’t just some academic exercise; Mason clearly embrace this form as a completely valid vehicle for self-expression and frame it in a thoroughly modern way.

“In or Out” has a balls-to-the-wall approach that the band rarely deviates from over its running time. When it does shift gears, however, it does so to spectacular effect and results in giving the song a little added oomph to push it over the finish line. The ingenious vocal arrangement for “She’s a Little” makes for an ultra swinging tune without ever drawing too much attention to itself and dovetails nicely into the musical arrangement. The multi-tracked vocal treatment doesn’t sound at all out of place among these ten songs and, if anything, the different mold it fits adds some welcome variation and spice to Midnight Road. There’s some of the same easy swing embodying the song “Give It To Me Now” and its uncluttered approach has a breezy confidence that hits listener’s sweet spots with a combination of style and substance. Midnight Road ends with a great title track full of color and dramatic touches lacking in the early numbers but, once again, Mason never sounds uncomfortable with these variations. They play as natural variations of the band’s DNA without ever seeming like they are straining for effect. It ends the album on a high note.

9 out of 10 stars


Lance Wright