Mason Jennings

Minnesota

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Ruminative and melodic with a light strain of funky freak-folk running throughout, Mason Jennings' 2011 effort Minnesota is a tidy little backwoods opus. Still favoring a kind of hippy-dippy blues delivery that's one part G. Love and one part Jack Johnson, Jennings' Midwestern vocal drawl and knack for catchy, poignant songs have developed into his own, immediately recognizable kind of thing. For every laconic folk ballad à la the opening "Bitter Heart," Jennings throws in something catchy and electrified, such as the '80s Brit-pop-sounding "Hearts Stop Beating." In that sense, his songs bring to mind the work of such similarly minded contemporaries as Matt Costa and Josh Rouse. Jennings even summons a kind of country-blues take on Bob Dylan, as on the ballad "Wake Up," a late-album confession of alcoholism and artistic ambition. However, the Dylan vibe is most profoundly expressed on the darkly psychedelic "Witches Dream," in which Jennings yawps "House in the country by a witch's stream where the clouds meet the mountains in an endless dream/Come little rider let your dress fall back into the hours of abandon where the sky turns black." A hypnotic, wickedly sexy bit of folk-funk delivered at the tempo of a rambling, acid-soaked desert caravan, the track -- as with the rest of Minnesota -- leaves you pondering Jennings' poetic intent like a dark mirage spied in the late summer sun.

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