The Mason Brothers – The Sun, The Moon & The Sea
Brilliant, mellow traditional acoustic folk that never gets boring or repetitive.
Sometimes I just want to hear an album that’s mellow all the way through. Yeah, I’ve got mellow playlists. The problem with playlists is that although they may contain mellow music, they conjure up all sorts of good and bad memories. It’s not mellow emotionally when I’m remembering why the Iron and Wine cover of “Such Great Heights” means so much to me, or when I’m scrambling to forward the playlist past the song my ex and I had as “our song.”
The Mason Brothers’ The Sun, the Moon & the Sea is truly mellow. The folksy songwriting is 90 percent acoustic guitar, the tempos are slow and the vocals are soft. In addition to being instrumentally mellow, it’s emotionally calm. The songs are beautiful and ponderous, but not depressing. There are few ruminations on lost love here – the few romantic musings that do exist are so warmly couched in comforting, loose-fitting folk that it’s hard to notice their inherent angst.
The Mason Brothers choose traditional folk as the medium for their ingenuity. It’s an astounding choice, because there’s hardly anything traditional about today’s up-and-coming folksters. It’s all about new-folk and indie-pop/folk and freak-folk and whatnot for most people. But the Mason Brothers have more in common with Simon and Garfunkel than Josh Ritter. There are few syncopations, even fewer songwriting tricks and almost no accompanying instrumentation. Despite the lack of ornamentation, the Mason Brothers succeed in writing memorable, hummable, exciting songs. In fact, in some cases it is because the songs are so spare that they are so powerful.
“Hands on Fire” carries an astonishing intensity made that much more powerful by the fact that it’s merely two finger-picked acoustic guitars and vibes in the lyrical breaks. The bluegrass feel of “Divide” is appreciable only because the deft fingerpicking isn’t covered by loads of extra instruments. “Ready, Set, Go” is the song that will stick with you, as you’ll be humming fragments of the melody after the album’s over. “Into the Mines” is a lullaby, intended or not.
With the exception of the uptempo “Divide,” the entire album plays out like a long lullaby. The final track “Round and Round” is no disappointment on that front. The guitars are melodic, easy on the tempo and ear-catching. The vocals call up Art Garfunkel in a good way. The song rolls easily onward, never intrusive on the ears, but never falling into background noise. It’s easily discernable from the other tracks on the album, while still definitely being the Mason Brothers’ creation. It’s a perfect example of why I love this band.
The Mason Brothers are songwriters extraordinaire on this album. If they can keep this level of quality up, I see no reason why they won’t go on to major success in the field. They have every quality needed: guitar prowess, songwriting skill, melodic gift and the x factor that ties it all together. I listen to this album all the time, because it’s truly mellow and not ashamed of that fact. The Mason Brothers accomplished what they set out to do with this album: make a definitive statement in a very unobtrusive way. Brilliant; not to be missed.