Introducing The Band: RAY MASON

08/25/05 Holyoke Mason- Musican Ray Mason sits with his guitar in between sets at Herrell's Mill Cafe in the Open Square building in Holyoke on Thursday. CUTLINE: 3/6/08 - "It certainly can hurt financially when a gig you were counting on gets cancelled, but at the same time, your need to appreciate the fine art of getting snowed in," said Ray Mason of the Lonesome Brothers. CUTLINE: 3/20/08 - Ray Mason will lead the Lonesome Brothers as they perform at Liston's Bar and Grill in Worthington Friday night.

      There’s a hidden treasure in Haydenville, Massachusetts… and his name is Ray Mason. He’s been an active musician on the scene for more years than many of us have been alive, releasing solo albums as well as serving time as one-half of Americana duo Lonesome Brothers. Ray plays no-nonsense Rock ‘n’ Roll the way it should be played: fresh, exciting and littered with musical references from practically every genre you can think of. When throwing on a Ray Mason album for the first time, don’t be surprised if you hear a sad and sorrowful Country crier followed by a prickly rocker with a Punk edge to it. His music references everyone from Robert Johnson to The Beatles. His early influences can be found on records released by labels like Motown and Stax but don’t be surprised to find some inspiration from the Stiff and Chiswick archives as well. The best way to describe Ray’s sound is this: imagine Neil Young colliding with Nick Lowe while fronting NRBQ and performing songs telepathically channeled from David Lindley’s sideburns. If you are thoroughly confused, have no fear. Describing Ray’s charm is difficult. However, enjoying this unpretentious, humble and extremely talented man’s music is a much easier.
With over 20 albums to his name (including eight or so with Lonesome Brothers), digging into Ray’s back catalog is hugely satisfying. Normally recording with a few longtime friends as the Ray Mason Band, Ray does occasionally record albums with just his trusty Silvertone guitar. His latest plate-spinner, THE SHY REQUESTER, is one of those albums. Imagine walking into a bar, grabbing a beer, and then relaxing as you enjoy the night’s entertainment: a down-to-earth singer/songwriter plying his trade with songs that seem to reflect how you – a normal person – relate to this world. THAT is what listening to THE SHY REQUESTER is like. It is funny, sad and completely from the heart. It is also raw and loose, as you’d probably expect from an album with just voice and a Silvertone electric guitar with varying degrees of reverb. It may not shimmer and sparkle like what you hear on Top 40 radio, but Ray’s music has much more depth and honesty – even when he strips it down to its core.

And now, I’d like to introduce you to Ray… in his own words!


STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: Please introduce yourself.
RAY MASON: My full name is Raymond Patrick Mason so my initials are RPM as in revolutions per minute. I was destined to be involved with records!

SPAZ: Can you fill us in on this new little platter of yours?
RAY: My latest record, THE SHY REQUESTER (produced by the extremely talented Henning Ohlenbusch) is mainly me and my 1965 Silvertone electric guitar (along with guests Henning, Lesa Bezo and Dave Trenholm). It’s as pure and honest as I can get. A man and his Silvertone!

SPAZ: Which song off of the album do you feel best defines the essence of the album and/or what you are all about, musically?
RAY: Hopefully, they all define that essence but if I had to pick I’d opt for two if that’s okay:” Who’s Gonna Play Like That” and “Come Out And Play.” I’ve always been drawn to sad songs. A classic example is “It’s Gonna Take A Miracle” by The Royalettes. Totally floors me every time I hear it!

SPAZ: In this age of streaming, the concept of the album as an art form seems to have been lost in the digital shuffle. Did you approach this project as a whole piece of work or do you view it more like a collection of individual songs that you felt work together well?
RAY: I can’t say that THE SHY REQUESTER is a concept record. Definitely a group of songs that I believe work well as an album.

SPAZ: When you began the songwriting and recording process, did you already have a fully-formed idea of how you wanted the end product to sound like or did it come together organically?
RAY: Well, I definitely heard it as a voice and electric guitar record. Sparse but interesting.

SPAZ: As a songwriter working in a group with equally talented producers, writers and performers, is there a lot of give and take involved with making an album or were you and Henning on the same wavelength with this batch of songs?
RAY: I wrote all of these songs myself (my wife Karen came up with the title for “I Gave Up Giving Up Drinking”) so there’s give and take within yourself! Henning (as producer) certainly had input and great ideas. I prefer to write alone. More peaceful with less stress. But it’s different for everyone


SPAZ: Given the opportunity, an artist could tinker with an album for years before finally releasing it to the world. Are you happy with the release of the album at the moment or are you still in the ‘I wish I could go back and add this or change that’ stage?
RAY: I tend to look at albums as capturing a moment in time. That’s what makes them special. I don’t like the idea of messing with it once it’s finished. You lose something when you start doing that. Plus it’s usually time to move onto the next one!

SPAZ: Listening to an album, one can decipher some of the main musical influences that helped shape that artist. However, there can also be some surprising influences as well. Who would you pick as your chief musical influences on this album?
RAY: I have so many influences! They’re in there in everything I do. Right off the top of my head there’s The Beatles, Everly Brothers, Mary Wells, The Delfonics, NRBQ, Miles Davis, the piano music of Erik Satie, The Byrds, Hank Williams, The Beach Boys, Buffalo Springfield, The Band, Mike Bloomfield, Little Anthony & The Imperials, Gene Pitney, Elvin Jones, Bob Dylan, Dionne Warwick, The Remains……the list is endless!

SPAZ: Did you have any non-musical influences that inspired you during the making of the album?
RAY: I think that anything that happens to you or anything you see on a particular day influences you. Just getting up in the morning can be a major inspiration!

SPAZ: Was there a particular moment during the writing or recording when you realized that you were definitely making something special?
RAY: Producer Henning definitely captured the sound of me singing and playing guitar. He kept it pure and real. To me that was the objective and he nailed it!

SPAZ: What is next for Ray Mason?
RAY: I’m working on tunes for (hopefully) another solo record. Also have songs written for possible band and Lonesome Brothers records. Take it as it goes. That’s enough for now!

SPAZ: What are you currently spinning on your CD and record players?
RAY: That’s a loaded question! I listen to music every chance I get. It’s like going to school and one of the joys of life. What I listen to changes daily. Already looking forward to tomorrow morning. Have no idea what I’ll be listening to but that’s the beauty of it!

Thanks to Ray Mason




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