Release Date: Sep 15, 2009
Record label: Brushfire
Genre(s): Indie, Rock, Alternative, Folk
Mason Jennings goes electric with Blood of Man, which finds the Hawaii native channeling the raw, loose sounds of Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen. This isn't a rock & roll record, but it's the closest that Jennings has ever come to losing himself in amplified noise, and there's a sense of homespun energy fueling each rootsy number. Jennings handles all the instrumental duties himself, embracing slightly imperfect performances rather than smoothing them out, and the album's production -- also helmed entirely by Jennings -- is suitably straightforward, eschewing the usual studio polish for a simple pinch of reverb.
More questions than answers on folk storyteller's somber eighth LP This wiry haired, plaid-clad Minnesota musician has established himself as a glass-half-full kind of guy. Many of his songs celebrate family and love—he’s been known for simple, repetitive lyrical constructions with lines like, “You are the love of my life,” or “Keep on kissin’ me,” and love songs to Jesus and Buddha alike. It’s not that Mason Jennings has never tackled hard things—much of his early work is heavy with well-developed questions and doubts about God and human hurt, but they’re mostly channeled through playful poetry and breezy acoustic riffs.
When your name is Mason Jennings a music career seems like predestination. I’m not going to presume to put him on the same legendary pedestal as Bob Dylan or Bruce Springsteen, but all of their names do have that kind of humble blue collar ring, one that says as much about the man as the music. And Mason Jennings has come a long way, both in his career and his style, moving through the ranks of clanking an out-of-tune guitar in his parents’ basement to singing protest songs in front of crowds in Minneapolis.
Mason Jennings walks a tenuous tightrope. On the one hand, he got his major break filling in for the Jayhawks' standing Thursday gig and sang two songs in Todd Phillips’ I’m Not There. On the other, Jennings is signed to Jack “Banana Pancakes” Johnson’s Brushfire Records. While it’s unfair to judge an artist based on who signs his checks, there are clear indications on Blood of Man that Jennings has either found his muse in the boring, consumable surf-pop of Johnson or was railroaded into softening the few edges he has so that the blood pressure of whoever it is listens to this kind of music remains in a near-comatose state.