Sometimes there’s no need to complicate things further than a bloke and a guitar. Over the past decade Willy Mason has carved a name for himself within a fairly crowded space through sheer song-writing ability and his velvet beyond-his-years voice. Its possibly fair to say that he isn’t known for his prolific nature, leaving fans waiting five years since his previous album If the Ocean gets Rough. So this month’s Carry On has a substantial weight of expectation.
Carry On is Mason’s third album and shows signs of progression whilst baring all the hallmarks of the singer-songwriter we have come to admire. Eye-brows may have been raised when it emerged that Willy Mason was working with Hot Chip producer Dan Carey for his third record, but the nuanced production and subtle electro metronomic rhythms are what gives Carry On it’s identity from the previous albums. Don’t panic – the use of digital tones is supplementary to the warm acoustic sound we know and love; but succeeds in providing a distinctiveness to the album.
Carry On certainly has its share of stand out songs but unlike Willy Mason’s prior two records, this one fails to score a clean sweep. Some tracks such as ‘Show Me The Way To Go Home’ and ‘Painted Glass’ are forgettable; others simple don’t lend themselves to the sing-along catchiness that made the previous work so ‘anthemic’. The album’s first single – the upbeat ‘I Got Gold’ – also sticks out like a sore thumb, sandwiched between melancholy tracks that are indicative of Carry On’s otherwise lonely (and at times frankly dark) themes.
However the album redeems itself in as many departments as it falters. The track Restless Fugitive (session video above) is a standout track, not least for being almost double the length of any other song on the track list. The title track also is a spine-shiverer. At its best, Carry On is easily on par with vintage Mason. At its worst, it’s unremarkable and sullen, with tracks finishing before they’ve really started. On the whole though, I enjoyed Carry On. Just hearing new material from this man is enough for me as an enamoured fan. I respect him as a widely underrated songwriter and am relieved to at last have my hands on a third album, which at times looked like it was never going to be an eventuality. It’s great to see Willy Mason ‘carrying on’ – imagine what he’ll sound like if he lives as long as Johnny Cash?