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Willy Mason - If The Ocean Gets Rough

Willy Mason, If The Ocean Gets Rough

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

HAVING scored a massive word-of-mouth hit with his 2004 release Where The Humans Eat, Willy Mason has now set out to prove he’s no one album wonder with the keenly-anticipated If The Ocean Gets Rough.

And the good news is that he’s come up with an equally confident album – one that features guest appearances from Roseanne Cash and KT Tunstall and already boasts the hit single Save Myself.

Mason wrote the songs for If The Ocean Gets Rough while on the road supporting the likes of Beth Orton and Radiohead. It was then recorded in Massachusetts.

The result is a long-player that showcases his skills as both a songwriter and instrumentalist, drawing on the success of his debut and infusing it with a few more elements.

When The River Moves On includes a gospel-backed chorus, while We Can Be Strong borrows a central guitar riff that flirts outrageously with the one employed by Eric Clapton on the acoustic version of Layla – but still remains one of the album’s strongest offerings.

And former single Save Myself is a catchy offering that just keeps getting better the more you hear it. The chorus displays a nice shift in Mason’s vocal style, while the guitars once again work well, this time with some low-key strings in the background.

Throughout, Mason’s downbeat, husky voice ensures that the album retains its distinct vocal style no matter how adventurous the music gets, recalling the likes of early Dylan, downbeat Beck and even Johnny Cash.

It’s how much you appreciate Mason’s style that will, however, ultimately shape your view of the album. There are times when the slow-burning, deliberate style and equally low-key instrumentation becomes a little wearying.

What works really well on a track like The World That I Wanted, a heartbreaking eulogy for a dead father, doeesn’t work quite so well by the time the album reaches its latter stages.

There’s a sense that it could have benefited from a few more of the commercial touches that make Save Myself so endearing.

So while If The Ocean Gets Rough remains a confident follow-up that ought to maintain Mason’s reputation and popularity, there’s a sense that he may need to raise his game a little higher come the third album.

Download picks: Save Myself, When The River Moves On, We Can Be Strong, The World That I Wanted, I Can’t Sleep.

Track listing:

  1. Gotta Keep Walking
  2. The World That I Wanted
  3. We Can Be Strong
  4. Save Myself
  5. I Can’t Sleep
  6. Riptide
  7. When The River Moves On
  8. If The Ocean Gets Rough
  9. Simple Town
  10. The End Of The Race
  11. When The Leaves Have Fallen