Mason – Midnight Road
The simply and evocatively titled Midnight Road is a memorable debut from Arizona headquartered blues rock practitioners Mason. Jacob Acosta, vocalist/songwriter/guitarist, leads this trio through an inspiring guitar centered workout over the course of ten superbly written tunes that never feel slavishly fixated on invoking the bands of bygone eras. Instead, Mason’s music culls reference points from what has gone before, but spins these elements in a highly individual blend that emerges as something truly their own. Acosta seems to be a one man music factory by himself with numerous solo releases and thriving indie bands like his Roll Acosta project that have landed him a place on the map as one of the most creative musical forces emerging from the indie scene today. He’s joined by some formidable musical talents with bassist Johnny Zapp and drummer Andre Gressieux; these two collaborators bring their own unique tastes and talents to the musical stew and, taken together, Mason comes out of this album sounding like a genuine force to be reckoned with.
The unusual textures and musical attack shaping the album’s opener “Rockstar Paperboy” has a decidedly playful edge, but it has a generous amount of musical substance that never interferes with its rambunctious edge. Acosta’s vocals are particularly rambunctious and he sounds barely unable to contain his enthusiasm. “Shackle Caster” has a more normalized musical touch and the band’s first earnest effort at wrapping themselves up in the blues comes off, as mentioned in the introduction, with a tremendous amount of personality and individuality. The guiding musical forces of Midnight Road are Acosta’s guitar and Gressieux’s drumming and they rarely find better expression than they do on this cut. They delve even deeper into blood and guts electric blues on “I Bet You Know” and the fiery attitude they bring to bear on the performance makes it even more emotional than it might otherwise come off. Some of that same impassioned delivery comes out as well in the song “In and Out” and there’s a determination and fury manifested in Acosta’s vocals on this song that listeners will find quite gripping. It’s, arguably, the album’s simplest number musically, but that simplicity has a freeing effect and divorces the performance from even a hint of the bluesy turns heard thus far.
“The Way You Used To” is full of a lot of pain and regret. The wrenching, deliberate pacing of this song gives Acosta a chance to showcase his vocals in an entirely new way that’s still related to the same approach heard on the earlier tracks. His guitar work inhabits all of the musical landscapes on this album with the same gutsy spirit and infuses it with deep feeling. They return to familiar ground for the album’s penultimate tune, “Quicksand Man”, and the two-fisted churn they conjure makes this one of the album’s more memorable numbers. Acosta, once more, throws himself into the song with the same raw vocal power that makes the earlier tunes take off with such velocity. “Midnight Road” ends the album with a title track showing another musical face for Mason. Their patience at building this sharply dramatic track is noteworthy and wraps the album up on a highly intelligent note.
9 out of 10 stars