Lo-fi troubadour goes hi-fi
Intriguingly, Willy Mason’s collaboration with The Chemical Brothers on 2007’s ‘Battle Scars’ offers the best clue to the musical terrain of Already Dead. The success of Mason’s debut record, propelled by his zeitgeist-capturing protest single ‘Oxygen’, cursed him with the infamous tag of ‘the new Dylan’. With his sophomore pitchforked, producer Dan Carey brought a mild electronic whiff to Carry Me.
That was nine years ago. Sure, blues, country and folk still form the blood that pumps through Mason’s work, but on Already Dead there is a circus-worth of sounds clowning around his lo-fi Lemonhead drawl.
Openers ‘Youth On The Spit’ and ‘You’d Like To Be Free’ feature drums being bashed, as funky guitar lines snake about. And there are other, less definable things shuffling around the record – something scratches at the door, things squelch, sirens peal. Further enhancing the carnival atmosphere are shake-your-hips beats and soulful backing vocals, which find Mason making rare overtures towards the disco ball.
On ‘Reservation’, Mason warbles, “Vultures always waiting when disaster strikes,” across a jaunty acoustic drumbeat. More grizzled veteran now, a country mile from the idealistic singer of ‘Oxygen’, he cedes the conclusion to a chuckling seer, babbling about belonging. On ‘Oh My Country’, chairs creak, fingers find frets, and drums chug away with or without Mason, as he topples out of Eden. This is a hugely compelling record that deserves repeated listening.