For more than one generation of fans, the blues “belonged” to old black men with slurred voices.
White fans who cared at all celebrated the music. Many younger black men rejected it because of its connotations of bad times and because, well, young people of all ethnic groups tend to find their own thing to stick to, anyway. Now, do the blues “belong” to young, blond-haired white men from Colorado like John-Alex Mason? The question is, of course, as ridiculous as any answer you may get. Mason, though, does sound “authentic.” As a teenager, he wrapped himself into the music of Muddy Waters, James Cotton, and the Anglo Johnny Winter, and, at 15, Robert Johnson. Long after a Cotton show at Colorado College, Mason remained in the auditorium, mesmerized. “I finally came to when Cotton’s guitar player asked me if everything was all right, and I realized that I was the only person left in the theater, still staring up at the stage.” He would go on to busk in the streets of the Netherlands, France, and Germany and play the Telluride Acoustic Blues Competition, the Arkansas Blues and Heritage Festival, and many other shows.
Mason’s Town and Country is his fifth CD. On the eight “town” tracks, he sings and plays electric guitar, Lowebow, and foot drums, and on the seven “country” tracks, he sings and plays a dobro. Consistently, he does the Delta, Piedmont, and Hill Country blues well and with the proper mix of depth and distance in his somewhat smoky voice. In this mix of originals and standards, he tackles the tragedy of New Orleans, which is ultimate blues. He also tackles love and fear, the simpler life clashing with modern culture, the lure of the road, and more. The truth is that, while the ways we express the blues may change, this uniquely American sound is still alluring if we remain open to it, so it still belongs to all of us. Those slurry-voiced survivors of the early days of the blues were once young, too. – Tom Geddie
Town and Country
(Naked Jaybird Music)