USE YOUR VOICE
Use your voice. It seems simple, but in reality itís complex. We use our voices to teach the young and to whisper our darkest fears and sweetest dreams to our confidants. Our voices give form, shape and vision to our memories, cultures and ideas. There is no division, no better or worse, no right or wrong in our voices. They are our most valuable and powerful assets, because there is no inequality among our voices.
Mason Jennings knows the importance of using your voice. Since he was a teenager, he has chosen to use his voice to sing, to stand up and to call out to the world the highs and lows of life and love, to cast a light on the shadows of doubt, to loosen the grip of fear on our hearts and minds, to laugh, to cry.
With his new album, Use Your Voice (Bar/None), Mason Jennings uses his voice to question thinly veiled motives in "Fourteen Pictures." He uses his voice to emphasize the hallowed sound of a hammer swinging to the beat of a lonesome manís heart in "Empire Builder." He uses his voice to revel in the sweet satisfaction of a loved oneís warm embrace in "Lemon Grove Avenue," and he uses this same voice to joyfully celebrate unconditional love in "Keepin It Real." And this voice, giving equality to all things great and small, also expresses the pain of death in the "Ballad of Paul and Shelia," the confusion of a soured love affair in "Crown," and the pains of a broken man in "Drinking As Religion."
Mason Jennings knows that the voice is a powerful instrument and with Use Your Voice, he not only uses his, he seems to call out to everyone to discover the same inspiration that calls him to sing, and for you to use your voice, too.
There is a void in pop music these days - one filled with a plethora of vacuous songs riddled with anger and sexual come-ons. For that reason, songwriters that speak from the heart and with literary poise are needed and that's where Mason Jennings comes in.
Jennings' third album, Century Spring (Architect Records), purposefully aims for the hearts and minds of music lovers, connecting with its finely nuanced pop-rock and poignant and vivid lyrics. "I wanted Century Spring to feel very natural and honest," he says. "I think of the album as a single love story and I tried to cover the gamut of the different ways that love can make you feel." What also sets Jennings apart from others is his unique voice - an ancient sounding instrument that seems as if he's channeling some of music's most storied ghosts.
As is typical of most visionary artists, Jennings has opted to cut his own swath rather than follow anyone else's lead. "The great thing about doing it yourself is that you can take the time you need to develop as a person and artist, and to try new ideas as they occur naturally, rather than having to conform to someone else's ideas or schedule," Jennings says. To his credit, Jennings never lost focus and has written nearly 300 songs and tours constantly with his band. It didn't take long for others to become drawn to Jennings - he's sold nearly 30,000 copies of his first two albums from the stage and the back of his van. And the praise Jennings has received extends beyond his fan base: The New York Times hailed him as a songwriter to watch, Noah Adams featured Jennings on his show, "All Things Considered," the St. Paul Pioneer Press dubbed him a "voice of a generation," and Jack Johnson handpicked Jennings to open his tour. Finding his hard-won successes sweet, Jennings has chosen to continue cutting his own path, and formed Architect Records to release Century Spring.
Century Spring also shows the constant evolution that Jennings is undergoing as a songwriter. He left behind the politics and social commentary that marked his sophomore effort, Birds Flying Away, and the spare acoustic songs that comprise his self-titled debut. Instead, Century Spring hones in on the matters of the heart, celebrating life, love and friendship with a lyrical astuteness that eludes most other songwriters. "I'm constantly trying to write the perfect love song," Jennings says. "I'm so tired of all the overuse of irony in pop culture and the music business today. I believe in honesty and beauty - that is what I am striving for in my music, not a punch line."
The literary flair and heartfelt tone of Century Spring brings Jennings closer than ever to meeting his goal of penning the perfect love song. The title track is a charming pop song extolling true love while "Sorry Signs on Cash Machines" brings you front-and-center to the love affair, winding its way to the heart with a beautiful Beatles-like melody and breathtaking lyrical snapshots of a love affair. "Living in the Moment," is a joyously simple ode to living in the here-and-now and celebrates the strength of friendship while "New York City" uses the city's inner-strength and beauty as a metaphor for following your heart.
Jennings isn't afraid to shy away from bad love or sadness, whether he's bidding farewell to loved ones in "Adrian" and "Dewey Dell" or braying with a vengeful tone on "Bullet," slashing and burning his way through the ashes of a burned-out love affair with rapid-fire, tongue-twisting rhymes. Through it all, Century Spring not only highlights Jennings' remarkable songwriting and singing skills but also shows that the void in pop music that is filled with empty emotions and false sentiments just got a little smaller.