Willy Mason

Where the Humans Eat

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The first thought that registers a few bars into Willy Mason's Where the Humans Eat is, no way is this guy 19. That's the claim on the promotional materials, though, and a glance at the boyishly disheveled singer/songwriter on his website says fair enough. Still, Mason's is a voice that fuses influences so at odds with adolescence and gawky youth -- hints of Alejandro Escavedo's dirt-road anguish surface alongside flecks of Johnny Cash's stoic resignation -- that accepting it as the product of someone barely legal is impossible; outright denial is required. But make the effort. Songs like the countercultural anthem "Oxygen," with its heart-on-a-sleeve confessions about the desire to be "better than oxygen" and "cooler than TV" will resonate for anybody who has preserved the instinct to grow weary in the face of convention, and "Hard Hand to Hold" plays like an anthem for Marlboro men looking to reclaim their inner boy scouts. This is the folky, bluesy, jangly-guitar-slinging sound of somebody who has made a practice of walking in boots three sizes too big for so long that they finally fit, and it delivers enough promise to inspire big ideas about what could happen when he outgrows them.

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