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. His latest, Blood of Man
, is an oft-startling departure from his characteristically light-hearted sound, as Jennings explores dark material with crunching electrics more suited for a stadium than the coffee shops and small clubs we’ve pigeon-holed him into.
Opener “City Of Ghosts” hosts a lonely howl (to a lover or a god? Jennings leaves this open for interpretation): “Looking for you / Why won’t you show? / Waiting for you / But it’s a city of ghosts,” he sings over pounding drums and an electric guitar’s wail. The ominous “Black Wind Blowing” and “Ain’t No Friend Of Mine” are bloody murder songs, the latter ending in the eerie tinkling of a piano’s high keys. Hope peeks through on “Sunlight,” though the track is bittersweet at best; the idyllic season of young love and popsicles that Jennings depicts feels painfully out of reach. Tender and lamenting, “The Field” and “Sing Out” are the record’s aesthetic peaks, though both are just plain sad. The first is a desperate cry of a parent who has lost a son to war, and the second further expresses the weight of human loss. Completely self-recorded and mastered, Blood of Man isn’t dressed up in studio effects—it’s as raw and real as the writing itself.
Listen to Mason Jennings on MySpace.