Lyons Bluesologist, David McIntyre
Masontown has followed up their self- titled debut six-song EP with a fine full-length recording called, In This Time. The band has put themselves “in this time” with this CD, which puts them directly “in time with the times.” They have placed themselves in position to be one of the best new acoustic bands in the area with this release and their special live performances.
The band played a concert in Lyons at the Sandstone Park series last week with relaxed confidence and great ability; they appeared “comfortably loose.” The audience loved their choice of tunes and showed their appreciation for good music. For a relatively new band their songs were tight and sounded like they were being offered by a band that has played them for a long time. Masontown, as a band, won second place at last year’s RockyGrass Festival, while
guitarist Eric Wiggs took first place in the flatpicking competition. Masontown’s music is hard to categorize, they combine bluegrass, folk, and old-time music into a blend of new acoustic music that is all the rave these days. The members include Eric Wiggs guitar/vocals, Natalie Padilla fiddle/vocals, Michael Cannery mandolin/vocals, and Bradley Morse on bass/vocals.
In This Time starts off with “Cambric Shirt,” and a second line beat punches this tune along rhythmically. It is taken from an old folk song that originated in the 17th century. The bass, guitar and fiddle propel this song, and the vocals especially on the chorus are outstanding. “Rainy Day” is a tune Natalie wrote to showcase her fiddle’s soaring long notes above a quick tempo. With George Guthrie’s driving banjo and Natalie’s fine vocal this breakup song moves brightly along with conviction. Michael Cannery’s “Dancing Sheep” is about not enough, or too much sleep. Michael’s mandolin seems to dance over this delightfully crooked instrumental. “Nightingale” is a traditional folk poem from Harlan County Kentucky circa 1916. Eric and Natalie’s vocals sound pleasingly ancient and fit the tune perfectly. “Mirage” is a true collaboration between the four of them. Natalie’s vocal is flat out stunning, while the guys provide a background on the chorus that is classic and otherworldly and puts this tune in a class by itself for this style. “Bouchonne” and “Brighthouse” are two great fiddle/mandolin tunes that fit here so very well. They get you to tapping your feet and wanting to dance. So, get up! “Abilene” written by Clay Rose of Gasoline Lollipops is another story about unrequited love with a dark twist. It seems to fit the band very well and lets them shine on this laid-back sad song. “Comfortably Loose” fits the band’s style perfectly. A Jazzgrass style tune by Eric that shows off his great prowess on the guitar in F# minor. Reminds me of Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli at their best. The title song written by Natalie, originally written for clawhamer banjo, it expresses Natalie’s helpless feeling after watching the news. A feeling most of us today can relate to. Michael Cannery’s “Monkey Shoulder” was inspired by a tasty adult beverage that had loosened up his fingers, while living in Lyon, France. His mandolin playing here is extremely good and the band’s ensemble playing is obviously as tight as a band can get. “Shady Grove” is their version of this toe-tapping bluegrass standard blending both the minor and major versions. I know it has been done many times but their version is worth a good listen. The recording ends with “Weekday Lament” a beautiful song that Michael wrote while inspired by the sunset from his porch one day. His mandolin seems to float over this song as the band fills up the spaces with perfectly timed runs of fine acoustic music.