April 26, 2007

Test Spin: Willy Mason

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After Willy Mason produced his first major-label release, Where the Humans Eat, at the tender age of 19 on Conor Oberst’s label, Team Love, I was really looking forward to If the Ocean Gets Rough. The opening track, “Gotta Keep Walkin’” is the most catchy and insightful, and captures what he has to offer as a songwriter and arranger. But after this song, the CD as a whole lacks depth, especially in comparison to his first album. With clear influences from blues, folk and rock, he also experiments awkwardly with a small chorus on “When the River Moves On.” His lyrics lean toward heavy handedness and predictability; the chord progressions and arrangements are nothing out of the ordinary. I still like his tone, his signature loping grooves and the rawness and sincerity of his voice, but very little stands out on this album. I’m happy to just call this a setback, and I look forward to following this young artist’s career.