Ray Mason

Three Dollar Man

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Twenty years into a casual career that's never ventured beyond the smallest of cult audiences, most of it in and around his western Massachusetts home base, Ray Mason delivered his best album yet. 2002's Three Dollar Man is a brief but captivating set of rootsy pop songs that have the soul and country influences of Don Dixon's solo work (the title track, a soulful and dramatic '70s-style ballad with piano and organ accents, sounds like Dixon channeling Todd Rundgren) along with a new emphasis on catchy hooks and spunky British Invasion-style melodies that give the album the sort of giddy retro twang of Marshall Crenshaw's early work. All ten songs are immediately catchy, from the shingaling pop of "Blessing the Girl" to the rockabilly-tinged rave-up "Reverb and a Zip Code" to the spookier atmospherics of "Ear for Rain." There's also a quirky sense of humor in play here that's rarely been in evidence on Mason's earlier albums, with the NRBQ-style power pop of "I've Got a Good Dentist" and the club-owner two-step "You'll Never Play Here Again," both as funny as they are memorable. Unpretentious and lovable, Three Dollar Man is a roots pop delight.

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