- Article by: Cameron Duke
- Posted: 10/04/2011
Mason Jennings took the stage at Nashville’s Mercy Lounge Wednesday night, sat down in front of the piano and confessed, "I love Nashville. I have no idea why it's been so long since the last time I was here, but I love this city and I love spending time here."
Jennings is on tour without his typical full-band setup, opting for just his longtime guitarist/drummer/bassist/singer as a touring companion.
"I play most of the instruments on my albums myself, as many of you know. I wanted to try and replicate that feel for you guys tonight." He then began with the opening chords of the low-key "Bitter Heart" from his new album Minnesota, which, as the most rabid Mason Jennings fan this side of Minneapolis loudly proclaimed, is "the best f-ing album ever!"
Wednesday night saw Jennings in front of a piano much more than he typically is, as the first three songs were from his new piano-based project. It’s a refreshing reinvention for the artist who already has a flair for austere production, opting for recording albums in his cabin in the woods as opposed to spending thousands of dollars on a very polished product, and his sound lends itself to his DIY attitude, his lo-fi folky albums and his preoccupation with the themes of nature and spirituality.
Before he began the song "Clutch," he explained that it was inspired by thoughts of dying; he imagined how dying would feel and tried to picture the thoughts that travel through one's head head as death approaches.
"I even pretended to die," he explained. "I expected to see my life play out, but instead I saw things like people in pajamas eating cereal and ordinary things like that. That's what this song is about."
Throughout the show, Jennings switched from acoustic to electric and even found his way to the drums. He prefaced his song "Deluth" by saying that he had been experimenting with different arrangements for some songs. Then he sat down at the drums and sang the Dylanesque railroad anthem to just a drumbeat, creating a surprising effect that silenced the entire room.
He grabbed an electric guitar with a heavy blues driver on it for the song "Ain't No Friend of Mine" - the bluesy song with no bass took the show in a very Black Keys direction for about three and a half minutes. But then Jennings brought the opening act back on stage and proclaimed, "These guys (The Pines) are my favorite band ever, and I asked them if they would play one of my favorite songs of theirs during my set and let me play drums and sing some of it."
The Pines remained onstage for the rest of the show, backing up Jennings until the show ended with "Jackson Square," which found the whole crowd singing along.
For the almost mandatory encore, Jennings returned to the stage holding a slightly out of tune autoharp. Explaining how he has this fascination with lullabies, he said he’d learned one that his mother used to play for him when he was a child in Hawaii. He jumped into that particular tune and then segued into a solo autoharp version of Woody Guthrie's “Hobo’s Lullaby.”
After that, the fans demanded a second encore, screaming “One more song! One more song!” until Jennings finally complied, this time taking requests.