a few minutes with andy mason

andy mason, photo by beverly james.

andy mason, photo by beverly james.

Taking in a performance by local music vet Andy Mason can mean bearing witness to a generous sampler of sounds.

Catch him with Lexington faves The Swells and you will hear an integral part of a musical fabric that honors vintage jazz, blues and more. If he happens to be onstage with fellow local-ites Big Maracas, the focus shifts to a more summery Brazilian vibe. And this goes without covering Mason’s local history as one-third of the ‘90s power trio The Blueberries and his crafty solo piano shows staged during the early days of The Dame.

Much of that versed background figures into Mason’s new Off-Camera album.

There are light, tropical touches scattered about and even a jazzy flourish here and there. Mostly, though, it’s an expert pop outing full of deftly played, articulately penned and crisply produced songs. Imagine the cunning songcraft and vocal finesse of early ‘80s Squeeze records but with arrangements that favor a more traditional, almost parlor-style pop setting, and you have an idea of what Off-Camera aims for.

“I usually hear what kind of set-up I want for a song,” Mason said. “Then when I get the basic tracks and everything, I start experimenting with ideas. It’s like you perceive at first something that you want, but you’re not sure if that’s what the song is going to sound like when you record it.”    

Having recorded in the past at the home studios of Blueberries mate Otto Helmuth, Mason cut Off-Camera locally with Chico Fellini’s Duane Lundy.

“I really wanted to see what ideas he could present. I’ve worked with Otto so much before with so many other things, so I wanted to get someone else’s perspective on the music. I also wanted Duane’s production sensibility available. I still kind of steered the whole thing, but I was definitely grateful to have his thinking available to me.”

Off-Camera enlists the help of local blues-and-groove merchants The Tall Boys, as did Mason’s 2008 album Illumination. Similarly, the band will back-up Mason at tonight’s record release show at Cosmic Charlie’s. While that will help fortify the new tunes’ rich pop flavor, having The Tall Boys on tap will also assist in heightening the live profile of a local artist known far more as a band man than a solo act.  

“Locally, I seem to do better with The Swells and the other bands. It’s tougher to get a crowd for myself, although I’ve had some good opportunities lately to get in front of larger audiences.”

That’s an understatement and-a-half. In December, Mason opened a sold out Singletary Center for the Arts concert by Chris Isaak.

“Exactly,” Mason said with a laugh. “That’s what I was referring to. But like with any band, you have to be playing a lot to bring a crowd out. I haven’t been doing a lot of that of late because I’ve been focusing so much on the other bands I’m in. But that’s been fun, too. We’ve done a lot of gigs and built up a lot of business over the years. It’s fun and it’s good for the bank account.”  

Andy Mason with The Tall Boys will perform at 8 tonight at Cosmic Charlie’s, 388 Woodland Ave. Coralee and the Townies will play a late set. Cover charge is $6. Call (859) 309-9499.

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