Singer/songwriter prodigy accelerates growth process on second release
Having been appointed by overeager journalists to be nothing less than the second coming of Johnny Cash, it's easy to forgive Willy Mason for taking himself too seriously on his second album. Now 22 years old,
and with three years of hard touring under his belt, the one-time Conor Oberst protégé has lost little of his everyman appeal, and his second batch of songs are no less steeped in the sort of lived wisdom
and slice-of-life poignancy that made his debut a humble triumph. With evil-sounding violin licking around the reverb-drenched thuds of "Simple Town," Mason captures small-town life with a perfectly
conflicted mix of reverence and revulsion, one of many tracks where he'll dress up his homespun arrangement in chilly strings, richly chiming mandolins and fluttering keyboards. Peopled by broken but hopeful characters, these are songs that ache with a quiet desperation that feels familiar after his debut, but Mason's tendency to undersell
his strengths as a performer are gone. Instead, these songs are more melodically direct, sonically dynamic and lyrically probing. Mason proves he should be around long after his prodigy status expires.