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Original Release Date: 12/11/2012
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)
Label: Polydor UK
Nearly five years had passed since Willy Mason released his last album. Some may have assumed Mason gave up on music, but rather, the 28-year-old who hails from New York City, rejuvenated himself, sparking edgier, smoother music with his latest release, Carry On. Dan Cary produced the album in South London, leaving listeners to expect something more upbeat. However, despite such a choice in production, Willy Mason doesn’t stray too far from his ideals. Previously compared immensely to Bob Dylan, Willy Mason epitomizes folk music with his individual, modern sound, accomplishing a well-crafted, solid record and sheds himself of such comparisons. “What is This” opens the record with an expected Mason track. The song is bluesy influenced, complimented by the deep, soulful voice of Mason. The personal vocal style of Mason’s easily allows listeners to immediately connect with him and his lyrics on an emotional level.
Accompanying the fairly light, effortlessly passionate vocals are a drum box and guitar strumming. The percussion features light cymbal hits and box strikes throughout, along with heavier guitar performing towards the end, rippling until the song concludes. Overall, “What is This” is a strong track, but is what’s expected from Mason. “Pickup Truck” lightens the mood slightly, as it opens with a more upbeat, playful instrumentation support. The grooving percussion beat catalyzes such a change in pace, immediately met by the accompaniment of a guitar mirroring the same upbeat performance. It’s the inviting guitar work and supportive percussion that engages listeners. The bluesy, bright track is highlights the audible electric guitar briefly, allowing the performance to echo momentarily. The instrumentation drives the track considerably. However, Mason’s vocal performance remains solid, particularly towards the conclusion with remarkable layering and minute instrumentation, truly showcasing his voice.
While Mason introduces listeners to the expected with his first two tracks, “Talk Me Down” is where he lets listeners know they’re not in for a stereotypical journey. “Talk Me Down” – the third track – is where the record changes, demonstrating how eclectic Mason is. An experimental track, hints of country and blues define “Talk Me Down.” Certainly a standout track, “Talk Me Down” has a jovial spirit with a calm approach. The mix of genres, freeing Mason from genre restraints, is elevated by the sporadic percussion strikes, cymbal hits, and consistent guitar strumming. Following “Talk Me Down,” “Restless Fugitive” is perhaps the most engaging, standout piece upon Carry On. Sonically, Mason’s vocals continue to take listeners throughout the journey. However, on “Restless Fugitive” the ominous instrumentation too contributes greatly to taking listeners on a journey. As if listeners are exploring a desolate town, the initiated percussion taps and fleeing, gentle guitar playing provide listeners with tranquility and comfort amidst the journey. Along the way, Mason’s voice does enter, perhaps providing the most comfort for listeners. It’s Mason that has continuously stayed throughout the album, granting listeners permission to proceed into this new journey. Mason’s consistently warm and engaging vocals allow him to push past limitations and take listeners upon something new, mostly due to
the comfort his voice provides. Striving to push past restraints, Mason achieves so with “Restless Fugitive” and the remainder of Carry On because he captures serenity and warmth within his vocal style. What’s beautiful isn’t solely his vocals, but their presence within “Restless Fugitive.” His vocal presence isn’t as vehement as on previous tracks. “Restless Fugitive” actually highlights the instrumentation greatly, mostly by the driving percussion. He doesn’t need to be heard on every note, but only needs to acknowledge his presence slightly for listeners to be overwhelmed by a sense of calmness. Carry On concludes with the nearly three-minute track, “If It’s The End.” Illustrations of a corpse initially grace the lyricism, but “If It’s The End” is brightened by Mason’s vocals. Accompanying the warming vocals is rhythmic, soft percussion and the generally-looping guitar.
A solid song to end with, “If It’s The End” hints at Mason’s roots and evolution, specifically lyrically, “if it’s the end, it’s not the only end / let it begin, let it unfold again.” Mason may be heading in a direction that isn’t what’s expected, but it isn’t the end. While Carry On alludes to Johnny Cash inspiration, Willy Mason shakes off the Bob Dylan comparisons with this record. He achieves a solid, yet not always incredible, record, foreseeing the possibility of reaching out to a wider audience. Undeniable is the talent Mason possesses, most evident in his well-crafted songs where he reaches beyond limitations and strives to be the artist no one expects him to be. It’s only a matter of time before Mason explodes.