Mason Ruffner

Mason Ruffner

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Rick Derringer produced the self-titled 1985 album by Mason Ruffner on CBSAssociated Labels and beautifully captured the raw sound with a professional slickness that doesn't get in the way. The streetsmart singer/songwriter composes nine of the ten tracks here, including the beautiful instrumental "Serenata," something strikingly different from the bluesy tone of the rest of the disc and one of the project's highlights. He's got the George Thorogood growl with a bit more of a pop/rock edge, and a cover-boy photo that makes him look like he's going for Rick Springfield's audience. Looks can be deceiving. The Georgia Satellites is more like it, though this is when the Satellites were "making waves," a year before their Elektra major-label debut. Jeff Healy also broke out shortly after this release, just as it was all coming back into vogue, thanks given often to the 1983 Texas Flood album from Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble. But keep in mind that it was Thorogood who actually opened the floodgates, Stevie Ray Vaughan giving the genre popularity and Mason Ruffner aiding and abetting the cause. Recorded in Louisiana and New York, you'd never guess Derringer is on bacground vocals, synthesizers, bass, and guitar. The producer stays out of the spotlight embellishing this solid effort. "Down to New Orleans" best displays the blues these cats churn out condensed into a pop format. The cover of Clarence Garlow's "Bon Ton Roule" adds a different dimension to the proceedings, but not as extreme as "Serenata," which not only breaks out of the album's style, it shimmers in an extraordinary way and is the true gem here.

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