Mason Jennings acoustic @ the Granada
The easiest way to describe Mason Jennings style is to say he and his guitar are one. Yeah. One. Like Yoda and the force. His style was amplified in his acoustic set at the Granada in Dallas. Jennings doesn’t have the most beautiful voice, but it’s powerful. And when it’s paired in it’s odd canter to his guitar in an equally odd canter.. all I can say is it’s delicious. Read on after the jump.
Words and photos by Anna “Hash Browns” Vernon.
Jennings is compared widely to Jack Johnson and early-period Bob Dylan, for good reason. All three excel acoustically, and their sounds are, in whole, softer beats with a focus on the vocals and lyrics. Jennings has produced 7 albums to date, and his night in Dallas visited each one.
“Fighter Girl” (In The Ever) started things off, with an uptempo beat and crooning to the crowd to “Kiss me, c’mon. Kiss me.” The whole night was Jennings solo on stage, just him and guitar. It was also an unusual setup for the Granada, with assigned seats-only. I was skeptical, but this was well thought out. It let the crowd just sit back and enjoy, listening to the lyrics. And the crowd certainly knew the lyrics. They seemed a loyal following, knowing when to clamor and when to keep quiet.
Next was “Which Way Your Heart Will Go” (Boneclouds) – immediately followed by “Be Here Now”(Boneclouds), one of my favorites. Both of these songs were written after he became a father, and spent time alone at playgrounds surrounded by mothers. He felt he couldn’t write songs anymore – like he was stuck in a tupperware box. But the “sun comes up and we start again.”
Jenning’s more serious side gave way to “Your New Man” (In The Ever), which is a quirky song that belies the amusing tone that describes being jealous and sad about a man’s ex girl having a new man with a big truck, and big hands. Jennings was certainly channeling his inner Todd Snider for this – minus the bare feet andwide-brimmed hat.
“Nothing” (Mason Jennings) was next, and Jennings spent some time explaining how he wrote his first album in an old Victorian house, where the water ran brown. He’d get embarrassed and stock up with jugs of water from the gas station for company, which this song mentions. “Ballad for My One True Love” (Birds Flying Away) showcases his beautiful guitar-manship, with lovely chords – one of which apparently used to be banned by the church because it was ‘dangerous.’ This song certainly isn’t, and has one of my favorite lyrics – sentimental as it is: “Sweetheart, this is my dream come true. And god bless the babies that sleep in you.”
“Lonely Road” (Blood of Man) brought the tempo back up again, followed by another of my favorites, “The Field” (Blood of Man). I’m sure it’s the same at most of his concerts, but this song draws out the crowd. It was written about his friend’s brother, who was killed in Iraq. The soldier was also a poet, which meant a lot to Jennings. This song was inspired by some of the poems written by the soldier. It starts out with a steady beat, which dissolves into a haunting voice/chord combination – then builds back up while he chants “If I was the president and my world turned black, I wouldn’t want no victory, I’d just want you back” with the crowd chiming in. Jennings then played a song with the same title, but this was from an EP that coming out soon. He recorded it last summer after a friend inquired about some songs he made in highschool – and revived them from a broken tape in his dad’s basement.
I thought of Cafe Con Leche with the next song, who frequently visits the state of “California, Part II” (Mason Jennings). It’s a happy song that has Jennings traveling away from LA and to north of San Fran. The harmonica made an appearance next, with “The Fisherman,” a bonus track off In The Ever that showcases slick guitar work paired with that harmonica. This song reminds me how well Jenning’s voice matches his strumming fingers. It’s not a beautiful voice with much range, but it has a quiet power that dances seamlessly with his guitar chords. I feel like Jennings could push his voice and at any moment I’m ready for him to explode with the emotion I hear.
“I Love You and Buddha Too” (In The Ever) was a pleasant surprise. I hadn’t heard this before, but Jennings brings more of a fast-pace that felt like Jason Mraz. It almost feels like a hymn – except that it’s about being tolerant of all religions and faiths. There is a repetitve “Alright, alright” in rounds that the crowd helped with – quite enthusiastically.
I was sad to see the evening end. It felt like an intimate evening with a friend, and one I would recommend.
Fighter Girl (In the Ever)
Which Way Your Heart Will Go (Boneclouds)
Be Here Now (Boneclouds)
Your New Man (In The Ever)
Nothing (Mason Jennings)
Ballad of My One True Love (Birds Flying Away)
Lonely Road (Blood of Man)
The Field (Blood of Man)
In The Field
California (Part II) (Mason Jennings)
Jackson Square (Boneclouds)
Hospitals and Jails (Simple Life)
Black Wind Blowing (Blood of Man)
I Love You and Buddha Too (In The Ever)
Crown (Use Your Voice)
Butterfly (Mason Jennings)
Bullet (Century Spring)
Keepin It Real (Use Your Voice)