Mason Jennings stopped by the Current this morning to premiere three new songs off his forthcoming Always Been, which is due out November 12. The album is his 10th studio release, and finds him exploring a rootsier, fuller sound.
“I think I wanted to make the warmest possible acoustic-based record,” he told The Morning Show today. “I was really moved by the Buena Vista Social Club record, the sound of it—and the Pines records sound like that too, where you feel the room. And that’s something I haven’t really explored before.”
Jennings enlisted the help of revered producer and guitarist Bo Ramsey to oversee the recording of the album, which features contributions from Ramsey’s sons Benson and Alex of the Pines, plus drummer Chad Cromwell, bassist Gordon Johnson, and string player David Mansfield.
“This one, I decided to do a different approach,” he said. “I made the last couple of albums in the woods, in a studio, playing most of the instruments by myself. I really wanted to focus on singing, playing guitar, and performances, and I wanted to get a band of guys around me who could do that.”
On working with Bo Ramsey, Jennings said, “He’s a real presence. He’s just all about the music. Having him there elevated everybody’s performances… He has a very elevating presence.” Jennings also recruited Buena Vista Social Club producer Jerry Boyd to mix the record and further enhance its warm, live feel.
Listeners got a chance to sample three different songs off Always Been this morning, including the single “Lonely Street.”
“I think it’s a pretty joyful record,” Jennings reflected. “There’s a lot of focus on melody and joy. For me, emotionally, I thought about what was missing in the music I listen to, and there’s a joy I could use to hear in the world a little bit, and a kindness. And sonically, I really wanted something that just sounded excellent.
“‘Lonely Street’—it’s the first song on the record, and to me it’s just joy. It was almost written in one sitting, it just kind of flew out, and I think it plays to the feel of the new record, and kicks it off.”
Mason Jennings plays a pair of release shows for Always Been at First Avenue on December 6 and 7.