We had the honor to meet Ray Mason tonight and hear him play from his extensive catalogue of original work. The first thing I noticed about the performance was his guitar. It was hand painted and had such a clear, unique sound. He told me later he bought it from Sears in Holyoke in 1965 and has played it in clubs throughout New England ever since.
He is quite a music historian, with his own themes, woven into the fabric of classic rock for decades. This man is open to all genres of music and integrates them into his performances, creating his own sound that never sells out.
His lyrics are real, empathic, wise and often funny, which give the listener immediate confidence in him. What will he have to say next?
The times that he started playing his Silvertone were the times of the original Yardbirds, the up and coming of blues and guitar masters. The evolution of these times saturated our culture with rich guitar work and Mr. Mason has soaked it all in. His guitar playing was fast, steady, but not self indulgent. He's a purist, no sound scapes, fancy pedals or whoofers. He is a timeless musician, with a far reaching range of voice and lyrics, traditional, but with a contemporary edge that is always fresh.
He played the charming "Cats Don't Wear Watches" and told us the story of his new cat who is now playing keyboards. He did a crisp cover of the 1965 classic, "Yes I'm Ready" from R&B artist Barbara Mason. I liked his version better, actually. The lead song to the CD "Castanets" was played and it was toe tappin. "They Don't Make Records Like That Anymore." had a contemporary vibe. "Eloise Please" was about growing up listening to a transistor radio. He said you make it or break it in the 8th song. Had 8 songs been played already ? The tunes were flying by, really good stuff.
"Never Run Out" followed, a song about having too much stuff. I loved the ending of this song, he did a nice fade out. He did fade outs in a few songs earlier in the show and I was surprised. You don't hear fade outs much on newly recorded music, anymore, and to see a fade out live, I think is rare. The man and his Silvertone, bringing back the fade out- live. He took every detail of his music into account and we noticed. "Water Fallin Off a Duck" I'm hearing is a Mason classic. It was upbeat and confident, such unique lyrics and always something you can relate to, wise to take along for the ride, yes.
Mr. Mason has opened for NRBQ and for The Band. A well respected icon of music himself here in New England, with sounds that remind us of classic Americana from shore to shore, his experience quietly filled the room. "Its All About You" had us laughing and tapping along. There were some great little guitar riffs hidden between the gems of the lyrics. Subtle, talented, but as I said, not self indulgent. He played the 1980 "Please Translate" which he mentioned was only on cassette, "Time To Captivate The Planet."
"Wilson Road" was his guitar tribute to Brian Wilson and his good buddy Steve. As much as I loved chatting with him and cherished every lyric of his vocals, this was a great Silvertone moment:
My friend said it sounded like an Allman brothers tune. "Drain" "Sid Fargas" the stories go on. He made reference to John Sebastian from the Lovin Spoonful, and wrote a song "When She Walks By" for him. The song fit like a glove into that genre and was so great on the ears, it was like an old favorite, yet I was hearing it for the first time tonight. There was a veteran in the crowd and he requested "I'm Not That Kind of Guy" and Mr. Mason respectfully said, "I play for the people" so he played the song again from his earlier set and we were all happy to hear it. Thankfully, he's not the only name in his daily planner!
In "Everly" he used song titles from the Everly brothers songs in the lyrics and it flowed like water. For "Workin Too Hard" the guitar sounded like a lead and a bass all in one. How did he do that ? He was like a guitar ventriloquist with the layers of sound he produced, yet there were no pedals or extra feedback or other tools at all. This last song was head-on straight talk from Mason for the rest of the planet to take life better and "let the grass grow as tall as you."
If he could "mold it like a piece of clay" chances are, life would be the shape of his Silvertone.
Thank you for a great evening of music and wonderful stories, Mr. Mason. You gleamed when you told us about meeting Jimmy Page, then from the Yardbirds. Yet, you were more excited to tell us all about the work you put into every song written along the way of your long career. Peter Grant may have always regretted not giving you that bus ride. It was an honor to meet you and I hope our paths cross again sometime.