John-Alex Mason,
Town & Country
(Naked Jaybird, 2007)

Like a lot of us, John-Alex Mason fell in love with the blues in high school. He describes going to a James Cotton show and having Cotton's guitar player ask him if he was all right. That's when he realized the auditorium had emptied out and he was the only person left, still staring at the stage. Upon hearing The Complete Robert Johnson, he particularly fell in love with solo country blues and made a decision to work in that area.

The decision appears to be working out pretty well. On Town & Country, Mason explores both acoustic country blues and the electrified city style. For the acoustic set, he uses a National-style guitar, a resonator Dobro type that, in the photograph, resembles the stainless steel-bodied model that Johnson is marketing. It has a great sound and brings an added dimension to the accompaniments. Then, in the middle of the set, he does six Chicago style blues songs, sill working alone, but for these numbers using a traditional electric guitar.

The songs are a tasty blend of originals and covers. He does Johnson's "Terraplane Blues" and Charley Patton's "Boll Weevil," as well as the traditional "Milk Cow Blues." His originals cover familiar blues themes. The electric songs are also a blend of originals and covers: Bukka White's "Jitterbug Swing," Skip James' "Cypress Grove" and Elmore James' "Shake Your Money Maker" follow one after another.

Mason treats the material, whatever its origin, with respect and enthusiasm.

[ visit the artist's website ]

review by
Michael Scott Cain

12 July 2008

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