Willy Mason: Five Essential Albums

by Kara Manning
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Blues, country and folk aficionado Willy Mason is a recent Communion Records recruit and he finally releases Carry On, his first album for the label, today.

It's the native New Yorker's third album and he'll celebrate his release day with a gig at Rockwood Music Hall tonight at 7 p.m. EDT. Mason, who took five years to write and record the album, worked with Hot Chip and Franz Ferdinand producer Dan Carey and found a more electric-minded edge to tracks like "Talk Me Down." Willy played many of those new songs from Carry On during an FUV Live concert from the Living Room in May.

Mason, who has lived on Martha's Vineyard for most of his life, is spending the next month or so far from the island, adroitly juggling three tours. He's accompanying Ben Howard, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros and Mumford and Sons via their Gentleman of the Road outing on selected dates, listed below. He'll also be a part of a Communion Club Tour which launches October 1 in New York at Rockwood Music Hall and a CMJ Festival show, slated for October 18.

Since Willy Mason has a strong affinity for the roots of Americana — and seasoned musicians far beyond his 28 years — FUV and The Alternate Side asked him to write about his Five Essential Albums:

The Pitch/Gusman Records Story
A compilation of gospel recordings made and issued by record store owner Waymon "Gusman" Jones between '61 and '78. There is no gloss on this record, which means that the frequent moments of musical glory jump out of nowhere and explode in your brain. I love gospel because it shows struggle as a beautiful and connecting truth of the human race.

Ralph Stanley, Almost Home
Another gospel album, this one just voices with no accompaniment. The harmonies are haunting like abandoned cars on blocks. Less joyful and more dealing with the hardships of mortality; it is soothing and soulful.

Alan Lomax, I'll Meet You On That Other Shore
One of many compilations released of Lomax's recordings from his "Southern Journey" in '59 when he set out with a tape recorder to capture and preserve the rural southern American folk music of the time. What he found is incredible and today feels like a glimpse of a wizard's notebook. It's music that conjures spirits and brings back some of the mystery to humanity.

Merle Haggard and George Jones, Kickin Out The Footlights
Two of the greatest singers and writers singing each other's songs and guess what it works really well. Maybe some of the production is compromised by the temptations of cost-effective digital alternatives to things like instruments but all is forgiven when you hear George Jones sing Haggard's "The Way I Am."

Roger Miller, Golden Hits
Good for a chuckle in most occasions, though that's just one of his strengths. Miller effortlessly stretches words and ties them up like balloon animals. Exciting and amazing for the whole family.

Willy Mason Tour Dates:

08/20 - New York, NY Rockwood Music Hall
08/23 - Simcoe, ON, Gentleman Of The Road Stopover #
08/25 - Cincinnati, OH, Taft Theatre *
08/26 - Louisville, KY, Iroquois Amphitheater *
08/28 - Kennett Square, PA, Longwood Gardens *
08/29 - Columbus, OH, The LC Pavilion Outdoor Amphitheatre *
08/30 - Troy, OH, Gentleman Of The Road Stopover #
09/04 - Austin, TX, Stubbs Waller Creek *
09/05 - Dallas, TX, South Side Ballroom *
09/06 - Guthrie, OK, Gentleman Of The Road Stopover #
09/09 - Birmingham, AL, Iron City *
09/10 - Orlando, FL, Hard Rock Live *
09/12 - Saint Petersburg, FL, Jannus Live *
09/13 - St. Augustine, FL, Gentleman Of The Road Stopover

^ with Ben Howard
# Mumford & Sons
* with Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros

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