For more than a decade, Mason Jennings has built a rabid fanbase as an acoustic troubadour, starting with the sparse sound and emotional depth of his 1998 self-titled debut, continuing with the Jazz/Folk/Blues direction of his politically-charged sophomore album, 2000’s Birds Flying Away, and coming to fruition with the glory-and-story-of-love song cycle on 2002’s Century Spring. But Jennings’ debut was far from his start; he’d been writing songs and playing guitar since age 13 and was so taken with the craft that he dropped out of his Pittsburgh high school at 16 and moved to Minneapolis to further his musical education.
Jennings recorded his first album in his living room, scrapped the second one when he realized he’d written to please his fans rather than himself and scored a weekly gig when he impressed a club owner after moving from opener to headliner with the cancellation of Soul Asylum guitarist Dave Pirner’s side project (Pirner showed up anyway and sat in with Jennings’ band, greatly impressed by his songs and execution).
In subsequent years, Jennings has released a string of full-lengths and EPs and filmed a DVD, signed with and departed from Isaac Brock’s Epic imprint, sang a pair of Dylan songs in the movie I’m Not There and signed with Brushfire Records, owned by Jennings’ frequent tour partner Jack Johnson.
Last year’s In the Ever was a continuation of Jennings’ acoustic Folk direction, but this year’s Blood of Man finds him picking up the electric guitar and wailing away with amplified abandon. Comparisons to Dylan, Nick Drake, Lou Reed and Ron Sexsmith still apply, just by different degrees. Acoustic or electric, Jennings’ fans know that it all gets plugged into and comes straight out of his heart.
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