The title gives more than a clue to where Stuart Mason’s heart lies. These songs, on his second solo album, are influenced by the music that would be described as solidly traditional in its performance and delivery. The result is suitably rustic and raw. The main feature is Mason’s old style vocal and his banjo, mandola and guitar accompaniment. The final number which is Parting Friends is delivered with just voice and banjo and highlights his strengths. However to make things a little sweeter he has added some additional players including his co-producer (along with himself) Ryan Davidson on bass fiddle as well as a brace of additional players who add fiddle, slide guitar to the acoustic instruments that form the bedrock of the music. Amber Cross’ voice is a honed counter to Mason’s rougher edged voice on several tracks.
The songs are a mix of traditional and ol time sources. Mason add a brief explanation in the sleeve notes that explains his source for the songs. There is something earthy and erstwhile about the album yet it manages to sound like the songs could be for these times too. Some of them will be familiar to those who listen to traditional folk, blues and old-time music tunes like Pretty Saro, Gospel Plow and Jesus Met The Woman At The Well. However they don’t often end well, rather these are songs that sit under some dark clouds. Talk About Suffering and All The Good Times Are Past And Gone are titles that are further testament to that notion.
Over all the approach and execution of these careworn but crafted songs is one of understanding and respect that makes them a list experience that is as vital as these songs would have been when the first emerged and were played on back porches and in bars. That they have endured and mutated is proof to their ability to tell a story or have a tune that survives through to this day and have seen the likes of Jerry Garcia, Bill Monroe, Doc Watson as well as Peter, Paul and Mary record them at various times. Stuart Mason and pals are in good company - on more ways than one.