Carry On

Willy Ma­son Fic­tion/UMA ★★★★✩

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music Reviews - Iain Shed­den

THIS is the third al­bum from US troubadour Willy Ma­son, on an up­ward tra­jec­tory since the re­lease of his im­pres­sive de­but Where the Hu­mans Eat seven years ago. That al­bum and its suc­ces­sor, If

the Ocean Gets Rough, re­vealed a song­writer rough at the edges in a record­ing sense but with a soul­ful, se­duc­tive voice that took his rootsy, oc­ca­sion­ally off-kil­ter coun­try mu­sic to a higher level. Here the pro­duc­tion val­ues have gone up, per­haps be­cause he has a new la­bel, Fic­tion. Pro­ducer Dan Carey, a man with a pop pedi­gree from work­ing with Franz Fer­di­nand, Django Django and Eu­gene McGuin­ness, among oth­ers, gives an ele­gant sheen to the ma­te­rial here. There’s a fragility yet warmth to Ma­son’s voice, rem­i­nis­cent of Gor­don Light­foot in places. The open­ing What is

This, a slow, brood­ing cry of de­spair that ex­plodes with an elec­tric gui­tar burst at the end, sets the tone of melan­choly for most of what fol­lows. Show

Me the Way to Go Home, an acous­tic bal­lad, is maudlin and strik­ing. Ma­son isn’t par­tic­u­larly happy, but he paints ex­quis­ite pic­tures on the gen­tle Shad­ows in the Dark and on Into To­mor­row, with its sub­tle per­cus­sive un­der­tow and acous­tic pick­ing al­low­ing ev­ery nu­ance of Ma­son’s voice to shine. The cen­tre­piece and eas­ily the best song is

Rest­less Fugi­tive, a plod­ding six min­utes given a beau­ti­fully Daniel Lanois-style am­bi­ence with shim­mer­ing gui­tars and ba­sic but es­sen­tial drums. Ma­son floats on top, telling the tale of a man for whom ‘‘ heaven is in the town be­fore me’’. The mood lifts on the coun­try shuf­fle I Got Gold, be­fore he re­turns to the slower, am­bi­ent brief on Painted

Glass. This is a well-crafted record­ing with pol­ished song­writ­ing at its heart.

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