Tues 6 Sept
words: AMY PAY
Two minutes before he is due to start, the folk-blues rocker Willy Mason strides onto the stage to face a lit converted church: “anyone got a thumbpick I can borrow? Mine’s split in two.” It sounds like a joke, but this actually happened. After resolving said technical issue by using gaffa tape to secure the plectrum in place, Mason carried on into the night in a similarly casual manner. He was so relaxed and unpretentious it was as if he were playing in his front room to a group of his US country folk friends, breezing through his modern folk musings as simply one man and his guitar.
In every song, Mason seemed comfortable yet contemplative; observant, often melancholically tinged lyrics juxtaposed the beautifully warm complex finger-picking. His aged farmer-like voice was typically deep, though in We Can Be Strong he leapt for notes in the upper octaves and succeeded. There was brief chit chat between a few of the songs but apart from that Mason eased practically seamlessly through the set (not entirely; the unfortunate timing of a burp caused him to stop halfway through one song – could he have felt more at home?)
His singles Hard Hand To Hold, We Can Be Strong, Save Myself and a sadly short version of Oxygen were dotted between softly sung album tracks. Pick Up Truck struck a chord with the audience; fans tagged on to echo the refrain of “call out, call out”, the same way they responded to the better known songs. Also striking was the reverb coming back from delicately hit harmonics in Fear No Pain and the feeling that he poured into the lightly bleak track Live It Up.
For a man with a messed up plectrum and last minute sticky tape in his hands, Willy Mason walked a strong, modest performance with clear skill and love of his craft. Finishing the soiree with the narrative tale Waiter At The Station, he drifted off into his own world while welcoming everyone else onto his sweet musical bandwagon to accompany him.