Good liner notes are a blessing for reviewers. They make it easy to tell you where a band is from, who’s in it, who plays what and when, and the band’s musical focus. In the case of this debut from Masontown their notes reveal a hometown of Denver, Colo., with Michael Canney on mandolin and vocals, Bradley Morse on bass and vocals, Natalie Padilla on fiddle, clawhammer banjo and vocals, and Eric Wiggs on guitar and vocals. They also reveal their focus to be as scattered as BBs dropped on the floor.
How to describe in three hundred or so words twelve songs that seem to go in many directions isn’t easy. The instrumental technique throughout the band is very clean, highly creative, and interesting. The vocals, predominantly led by Canney and Padilla, are above the usual, with Padilla’s clear tone the most earcatching. But what about the band’s musical direction? Since each song is highly varied from the last, do you go song by song? Or do you just mention that you can hear a New Orleans street parade underscoring their very loosely-based version of “Scarborugh Fair” (here called “Cambric Shirt”)? Or that there is straight bluegrass on Padilla’s “Rainy Day,” or Irish influences on Canney’s “Dancing Sheep,” or folk flavors on the maudlin “Abilene,” or Dawg intentions on Wiggs’ “Comfortably Loose,” or old-time on “In This Time,” or the delicate Windham Hill feel of “Weekday Lament?” And what of “Shady Grove,” or the Irish-tinged cover of the Kentucky ballad “Nightingale,” or the light, jazzy, pop mixture of “Mirage” with Padilla’s ethereal vocals soaring over ’60s-style harmony?
Maybe it’s just best to say that this is good, well-played, highly varied music that throws a curve at each change of the tracks. (www.masontownmusic.com)BW