It’s been seven years since Ray Mason put out a new record. He’s been busy the whole time, of course — surely no local musician has a fuller calendar than he, tirelessly playing solo shows across New England, as well as gigs with the Lonesome Brothers and his own Ray Mason Band.
But patient fans will be happy to know that the Haydenville pop maven just released a new solo album, “The Shy Requester.” It’s what you get at Mason’s live show — a man, his Silvertone electric guitar and his songs — with a little extra color, like the odd second guitar part, some vocal harmony help from The Fawns’ Lesa Bezo and Gentle Hen’s Henning Ohlenbusch (he recorded the album is his studio) and a saxophone cameo from Dave Trenholm of Free Range Cats and King Radio.
I was lucky enough to hear Mason perform some of the songs in advance when I caught his show at the Thirsty Mind Cafe in South Hadley back in March. One of the new tunes that jumped out immediately was “(Life’s) Heavenly Ladder,” propelled by one of Mason’s trademark wistful yet punchy chord progressions, with a chorus that ends, “We’re all going to make that climb.”
I’ve heard Mason sing about cats, a foot rest, nostalgia for records or a long-gone favorite eatery, but here was a catchy tune about death. And the subject returns near the end of the record on “Come Out and Play” — a jaunty-looking title, but the actual song is beautifully sad, a jumble of colorful memories that takes on an unexpected meaning when Mason follows it up with “Close your eyes / let the morphine drip flow / everyone around saying ‘It’s okay to let go.’ ”
“Not Everyone Can Live in California” is another standout, with some richly textured sunset chords as uniquely magical as those on “Pet Sounds,” over which Mason sings of summertime, his wife Karen’s perfect mix tape and some of his favorite pop people (The Lovin’ Spoonful, The Beach Boys, and the collaboration of Burt Bacharach and Hal David).
And the album ends with a beautiful acoustic miniature that whomps your heart in under a minute. Mason sings: “When the menu’s being held about a foot away / and my night vision has started to fade / the one thing I’ll remember so clearly to see / is this picture of you / vividly.”
See Ray Mason play an early solo show full of his catchy songs and witty and affable between-song banter at Bread Euphoria in Haydenville Saturday from 6 to 8 p.m. There’s no cover, though tips are appreciated. Mason will have “The Shy Requester” available, along with much of his back catalog (11 great albums, collect ’em all). He’s truly a national treasure in our own backyard. Highly recommended!
Amherst bands Calico Blue (indie/blues/dream-pop) and Spirit Ghost (formerly Sexy Girls, playing reverb-drenched surf/garage indie rock) join forces with Fissure Cat for a show at the intimate Montague Bookmill Friday at 8 p.m.
Northampton’s own “overblown garage upstarts” Thee Arcadians (pictured) and Worcester band Secret Lover join together to raise funds for The Brick House, Turners Falls’ youth and family nonprofit, at a benefit concert at the Rendezvous in Turners Falls Friday at 9:30 p.m.
The Bamboo Steamers bring their surf-spy-country-twang-pop back to The Basement in Northampton Saturday at 8 p.m. They’re one of the handful of bands that makes regular appearances at the nightspot — see why!
Trinary System (pictured) — the trio of guitarist/vocalist Roger Miller (Mission of Burma), bassist P. Andrew Willis and drummer Larry Dersch — has a new EP out titled “Amplify the Amplifiers,” and they’ll team up with locals Bunnies and Dust Witch for a mind-expanding triple bill at the 13th Floor Music Lounge in Florence Saturday at 9 p.m.
Brazilian instrumental trio Choro das Tres is made up of sisters Corina, Lia and Elisa on flute, 7-string guitar and mandolin, joined by their tambourine-playing father, Eduardo. The band plays Choro music, sometimes described as “the New Orleans jazz of Brazil,” and the songs can build up a wonderfully hypnotic groove. The quartet takes the stage at The Parlor Room in Northampton Thursday at 7 p.m.