Willy Mason, Hoxton Square Bar and Kitchen, London

4.00

 

“It’s been a while,” Willy Mason confesses. “It’s nice to see y’all.” The low-fi, alt-folkie has returned after a lengthy absence (five years, give or take the occasional low-key UK gig) to finally showcase new material.

He is greeted by someone’s mobile phone persistently going off, which the 27-year-old handles with admirable grace (“Wow, it must be a picture message”). He then kicks off with an accomplished solo rendition of 'Riptide', his gorgeously evocative song of remembrance for his hometown: “I remember when I carved my name into this cedar tree”. He follows it up with the equally enchanting 'Save Myself', also from his second album, If the Ocean Gets Rough, before languidly launching into his new material.

Mason shot to prominence as a precocious 19-year-old in 2004 with the release of his raw, impressive debut album Where the Humans Eat, which featured his smart and idealistic protest song 'Oxygen', which he, thankfully, performs tonight, eliciting a small whoop when he sings “We can speak louder than ignorance/ Cause we speak in silence every time our eyes meet.”

The Martha’s Vineyard resident followed it up three years later with the slicker If the Ocean Gets Rough, which featured the excellent 'We Can Be Strong', oddly omitted tonight. Since then, things have been rather quiet.

“We’re really crowded in here,” Mason mentions a couple of times. We certainly are, but then this substantial talent really should be performing at bigger venues by now. Earlier in his career he was lauded as a songwriter comparable to Leonard Cohen, which was clearly ludicrous, for no better reason that he lacks the man’s biting wit, but Mason did seem wise beyond years. He sings, in his low register, like a gnarled gunslinger and sounds like a blend of JJ Cale and Johnny Cash. He’s that good.

In past performances Mason was unashamedly unkempt (channelling the Seth Rogen look), here he is noticeably smarter, dressed all in black, and bearing a passing resemblance to Matthew McConaughey. He’s clearly taking matters more seriously with his crucial, career-defining third album coming up and the new material (and there’s a lot of it tonight) is strong, robust enough to catapult him into larger venues. The highlight is the sublime 'Into Tomorrow', where he sings “Shut your eyes and hope this lasts/ And let out all the demons from your face/ Don’t be afraid to take the lane/ That your thoughts choose to follow.”

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

    Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

    In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
    Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

    How has your club fared in summer sales?

    Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
    Warwick Davis: The British actor on Ricky Gervais, how the Harry Potter set became his office, and why he'd like to play a spy

    'I'm a realist; I know how hard this business is'

    Warwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
    The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

    The best swim shorts for men

    Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
    Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

    Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

    Meet the couple blamed for bringing Lucifer into local politics
    Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

    Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

    Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

    In grandfather's footsteps

    5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
    Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

    Martha Stewart has flying robot

    The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
    Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

    Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

    Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

    The dining car makes a comeback

    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
    Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

    Gallery rage

    How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

    Eye on the prize

    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
    Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

    Women's rugby

    Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup