Singer/songwriter Mason Jennings' 2013 outing Always Been is a melodic and organic album that finds the journeyman artist continuing to explore intimate themes of love and loss. The album follows up Jennings' 2011 ode to his home state, Minnesota, and features an acoustic vibe that harks back to his early albums. As with all of Jennings' work, this release demonstrates his knack for catchy, folk-oriented songs built around simple guitar structures and rhythmic lyrics. On "Number of the Sun," Jennings sings "One, one is the number of the sun/Hardcore when it doesn't shine no more/Two, two is the pain we're going through/Still can't believe it could be true." In that way, many of Jennings' songs, like "Instrument" and "Rainboots," bring to mind the acoustic side of T. Rex's Marc Bolan, as well as such luminaries as Leonard Cohen and Elliott Smith. Produced by guitarist Bo Ramsey, who appears throughout the album, Always Been also features appearances from Ramsey's wife, vocalist Pieta Brown. Together, Ramsey and Brown bring a layer of understated yet palpable earthiness and just a hint of country twang to Jennings' songs. Perhaps the best way to describe Jennings' music here is childlike and poignant. Which isn't to say his songs are naive or underdeveloped. On the contrary, Jennings has crafted a deftly sophisticated album whose straightforward simplicity belies darker emotional truths. As with his song "Patti and Robert," which he wrote after reading singer/songwriter Patti Smith's book Just Kids about her relationship with artist Robert Mapplethorpe, Jennings sings "Oh, baby, let go of your pain, come and give it all to me."
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AllMusic Review by Matt Collar