With this release Steve wears his heart on his sleeve and has provided us with a collection of introspective and mature songs
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In a superficial landscape of stagnant musicianship & lacklustre songwriting, it has become hard ground for established musicians to take the leap and experiment with new sounds, or approach to tried and tested songwriting methods.
This however has proven to be no difficult feat for well Established Scottish Songwriting veteran Steve Mason. Who achieved cult status in the 90’s with Folktronica pioneers ‘The Beta Band’. Steve’s new album ‘About The Light’ released 18th January on Double Six Records, treads new ground, whilst also providing long term fans with that dose of relateable and cynical songwriting spirit that he is known and loved for.
The album kicks in immediately with a melodic entourage of Brass Horns and heavy percussion. The major tone of the track takes a back step as Steve’s vocals move in with a lyrical critique of what one can presume is criticism of the United Kingdom’s peculiar and hypocritical love affair with the USA. Ensuring the listener that despite being so far down the road in his career his lyrical rapport is still as sharp tongued and vociferous as ever.
The second track ‘Rocket’ takes a more laid back approach, and is reminiscent of early ‘Beta Band’. A slow paced, but relaxing tune, filled with swells of Melodica and bluesy guitar licks. The instrumentation is sparse, but the track is given air to breathe, demonstrating Mason’s ability to craft soulful tunes without the need to run into heavy or unneeded saturation.
“The follow up track ‘No Clue’ sees Steve picking up the acoustic for the first time on the album. The track is a 60’s inspired blend of acoustic guitar with jangly pop plucked arpeggios, in an upbeat nod towards the classic British invasion and psychedelic bands of the mid sixties.
‘About The Light’ & ‘Fox On The Rooftop’ brings a mid album calmness to the dynamic of the album. And demonstrates a softer free flow approach to Masons compositions, allowing space to verge off into Pink Floyd like Horn melodies and guitar tangents.
The next track “Stars Around My Heart” is the First single to be released from the album and has its roots firmly in early Beta Band & wouldn’t sound amiss on Mason’s first debut album “Boys Outside”. The verses get stuck in the head, and the female backing vocals are a melodic yin, to Masons dog eared yang.
“Spanish Brigade” takes a more 70’s straight up rock n roll approach without sounding cliched or farcical. It has a foot tapping rhythm and keyboard section that opens up for a dynamic and catchy chorus, that ensures it eats its way into you’re head. Much akin to earlier Mason singles such as ‘Oh My Lord’
‘Don’t Know Where’ see’s Mason demonstrating his introspective side, with a scarce combination of simplistic drums, keyboard and blues guitar lines. Allowing the lyrics to come to the forefront the verse starts with the line “i don’t know where im going, i don’t know where i’ve been” showing a reflective and personal battle with conflicting thoughts, that he conveys towards the listener with intense conviction.
‘Walking Away From Love’ is the second and most recent single to be lifted from the album. And is the most upbeat song from the album. It is centred around a dog eared southern blues rock riff that would not sound out of place on a ZZ top single.
The Album finishes with the ironically titled ‘The End’. One of my personal favourites from the album, it encapsulates a variety of different sounds from Steves career. The horn section opens up on the anthemic chorus, whilst the verse sections are stripped back and allow the drums and bass to come to the forefront.
The Album may be lacking on the folktronic and triphop experimentation of some of Steve’s early material. But don’t be fooled into thinking this is an album to miss. With this release Steve wears his heart on his sleeve and has provided us with a collection of introspective and mature songs. Whilst also expressing his discontent towards the world, in an industry over saturated with yes men singing about the colour of Roses, simply because they think it will shift them more units. This is honest and organic music in fine form, from a uncompromising musician and it is all the better for it.