|Vintage Guitar Magazine:
Not too long ago, I reviewed the Ray Mason Band album Three Dollar Man. I was taken by the band’s ability to mix styles of music, sound totally unique, and keep a sense of taste and charm one seldom hears in rock and roll these days.
The key word here is charm. The music here shows off the fellas’ personalities in a very strong way. For comparisons, my head always immediately goes to the wonderful NRBQ. There’s a sense of wonder in their music, and in that of this band, that one does not hear often. The Mason Band also has such a unique take on things lyrically that it’s almost impossible to mistake them for anyone else. Check out "Ring-A-Ling.” It basically says he likes the call from his girl. It’s a charming lyric with gorgeous chords, and a guitar solo that mixes single notes and chords into a beautifully dissonant stew. Great stuff.
And that can be said for lots of stuff here. "Water Off a Duck” has a funny lyric, with a country/pop feel and monster guitar fills. The only remake on the album makes a lot of sense. They cover the Lovin’ Spoonful’s "Didn’t Want to Have to Do It,” and that band had a lot of the innocence and charm I feel here. "Big-Ass Balloon” has a lyric that references a lot of stuff, including Elvis and Colonel Tom Parker, as the music swirls with guitars churning out sounds. It’s all wrapped up by one of those guitar solos that sounds nothing like any solo you’ve ever heard, but reminds you of a great solo from the past.
After two records, this band has convinced me. To find this mix of uniqueness, musicianship, and charming innocence in what is, essentially, a local band is a real treat.
-J. H., Vintage Guitar Magazine
Coming after 2002’s career high point Three Dollar Man, the new Idiot Wisdom is a small backwards slide for western Massachusetts stalwart Ray Mason, but not much of one. Honestly, at this point Mason has his sound down to such an extent that if you’re already a fan, you’re going to enjoy Idiot Wisdom, and if you’re not, it won’t change your mind. For the uninitiated, imagine a mix of NRBQ (primarily Big Al Anderson and Joey Spampinato’s songs) and vintage Rockpile fooling around at the neighborhood bar around the corner. This is utterly unpretentious roots rock, all catchy tunes, twanging guitars and casual, unpolished production.
-Stewart Mason (no relation), Amplifier
Massachusetts’ ever-prolific singer/songwriter Ray Mason offers up another delightfully accessible offering, mere months after the latest with his Americana combo, the Lonesome Brothers, and scarcely a year following Three Dollar Man, the last Ray Mason effort proper. Fortunately, this productivity hasn’t had any ill effects on his ability to keep his music fresh. Idiot Wisdom, despite its seemingly contradictory title, shows Mason and company remain as likable and infectious as ever.
While others of his ilk may delve into the ponderous issues of life’s deeper meanings, Mason manages to keep matters light and lilting throughout.
It’s tough not to like a song titled “Ring-A-Ling,” but its cheery lyric and funky rhythm make it all the more embracing.
The title track and “Water Off a Duck” follow suitsprightly, happy-go-lucky melodies that further enhance the album’s effortlessly merry mood.
In fact, that’s pretty much the MO all the way through, from the loping tempo of “Digging From the Same Dirt” to the country twang of “Background Highway” and “Life is Full of Missing.” The only measured turns come with an especially aching cover of the Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Didn’t Want to Have to Do It” and the down ’n’ dirty “Big Ass Balloon,” a kick-ass country rocker with a deliberate down-home delivery.
For the most part, Idiot Wisdom is a pure breeze all the way through. In these days when the world is preoccupied by heavy consequence and fatalistic pessimism, these sunny sentiments are all the more inviting. (www.raymason.com)
-Lee Zimmerman, Goldmine
|The Boston Phoenix:
Although he’s never without his trusty 1965 Silvertone guitar, Ray Mason has made a reputation over 22 years of club gigs as one of New England’s more durable and respected songwriters. His 14th solo album, Idiot Wisdom, on his own Captivating Music label (from www.raymason.com), finds him firmly in command of his stylea mix of Buddy Holly/Chuck Berry directness with the edge and clever wordplay he shares with other keen-eyed pop tunesmiths who emerged in the early ’80s, like Peter Holsapple and Chris Stamey of the db’s. Numbers like the life’s-tough-but-we-all-get-by “Water Off a Duck” and the sad-eyed “Life is Full of Missing” brim with blunt honesty. That’s a quality Mason’s unvarnished everyman’s voice is perfect for expressing. And this dedicated road dog is likely to keep doing so for decades more.
-Ted Drozdowski, The Boston Phoenix