Saturday, December 20, 2014

Brent Mason: “All The Pretty Horses” (2014) CD Review

Brent Mason is a singer and songwriter based in New Brunswick. His new CD (his ninth), All The Pretty Horses, features mostly original material, with one exception (a cover of “Gentle On My Mind”). The album is largely folk, but with country and pop elements, and even a bit of a reggae groove on one track (“Rip Van Winkle”). This album boasts some seriously good songwriting, particularly tracks like “Walk On The Water” and “Ahead By A Thread.” And check out this line from “When Jesus Met Whiskey”: “If I didn’t have Jesus and you didn’t have whiskey, there’d be nothing between us to keep us apart.”

All The Pretty Horses kicks off with its title track, and right away the music has a bright, friendly, kind of familiar vibe. “She just sits around now/Waiting for a message or a sign/Something coming down the line/Somehow she forgot how/To jump a moving train, ride a horse away.” It feels to be about someone who’s been left behind by her own dreams, and includes a reference to Jack Kerouac’s On The Road. At first it seems to her that everyone has moved on except her, but then Brent sings, “All around the tired town, everybody’s waiting for a train.” And eventually the lyrics take on the positive tone that the music has promised from the beginning (“Jumps a moving train, rides a horse away”). This is a really good opening track.

Even better to my ears is the following track, “Walk On The Water.” This one gets right to me. I love the feel of it, its romantic, uplifting tone. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “We’re not killing time or passing through/This is where it all comes true/The world is impossible blue/I just want to walk on the water with you.” Brent Mason gives a heartfelt, earnest delivery that is perfect. Plus, I love the backing vocals on the title line, giving it a truly beautiful sound. This song struck me the first time I listened to this disc, and I love it more each time I listen.

But my absolute favorite track on this release is “Ahead By A Thread.” There are some excellent lines, such as “A glass half full is never going to be enough,” but mostly what I love about this song is its groove. It has a tasty vibe that keeps me smiling. This song is a joy to listen to.

As I mentioned, this album boasts some good songwriting, but “(W)hole In Your Heart” is an exception. Musically, the song is fine (it even features saxophone), but it’s marred by its title line, “You’ve got a hole in your heart and it’s leaking love,” a line that makes me cringe.

Jessica Rhaye sings lead on “Crash And Burn,” a song she co-wrote with Brent Mason. This one has a great late-night feel. I love Jessica's vocal delivery, particularly the simple, honest, matter-of-fact way she delivers the line, “Leaving wasn’t easy/That’s why it took so long.”

All The Pretty Horses concludes with its only cover, a rendition of John Hartford’s “Gentle On My Mind” (a song made famous by Glen Campbell). For this one, Brent is joined by Rik Barron on banjo. This is a song I’ve always loved, and Brent does a good job with it. Alan Jeffries plays guitar on this track.

CD Track List
  1. All The Pretty Horses
  2. Walk On The Water
  3. Rip Van Winkle
  4. This Amnesia
  5. Hynesight
  6. Ahead By A Thread
  7. (W)hole In Your Heart
  8. When Jesus Met Whiskey
  9. Crash And Burn
  10. Gentle On My Mind
All The Pretty Horses was released on August 19, 2014 on Left Handed Records.

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