Published on February 13th, 2014 | by Ballard Lesemann0
The Iconic Dave Mason Jams on ‘Traffic’ and More
There’s nothing disagreeable about the mood and vibe of veteran singer/guitarist Dave Mason’s music these days. While it’s been years since the English-born, California-based songsmith made his first splash in the rock ‘n’ roll world as a member of the Spencer Davis Group, Traffic, and as a solo artist, he’s never backed away from his affinity for crooning, strumming, and storytelling.
This weekend, Mason, a Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Famer, and his band lead his latest stage show “Traffic Jam” to the Charleston Music Hall as what he calls a “sight and sound experience,” covering the earliest days of his career and solo works. And more.
“I’ve been thinking about revisiting this part of my life and career for the last few years,” Mason tells Metronome Charleston. “I think the timing was right, and it finally came together. We put a show together that’s based on two parts with a little intermission between. The first part basically visits the material on the first two Traffic albums and some early stuff, and the second half is my own stuff and some favorites.”
Mason founded Traffic in Birmingham, England in 1967 with singer/organist Steve Winwood. Both were merely teenagers at the time. The band mixed traditional folk music, progressive rock, soul, and R&B on their earliest material, and each member demonstrated fine instrumental virtuosity.
According to Mason, his Traffic Jam show dives deeply into the songs of Traffic’s 1967 debut Mr. Fantasy and 1968’s self-titled album. “I do have a bluesy version of ‘The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys’ [from the 1971 album by same title],” he says. “I put it in there because it’s such a well-known song by the band. It’s a cool, bluesy version that goes over really well.”
Mason went solo in the early 1970s. Based in and around L.A., he signed with CBS Records and issued several folk/rock/blues collections. His biggest radio hit came in 1977 with the melodic, acoustic-based ballad “We Just Disagree” (off of the album Let it Flow).
“In the vein of ‘We Just Disagree,’ I tend to use timeless themes on recordings and live on stage,” Mason says. “We all need to have fun, and I need that to translate to the audience. I want them to have an experience where they feel better than they did when they walked into the show.”
Mason’s most recent studio effort is the 2006 studio album Twenty-Six Letters and Twelve Notes. He has a forthcoming EP titled Future’s Past on the horizon.
Mason’s current backing band includes bassist/keyboardist Tony Patler, drummer Alvino Bennett, and newly enlisted lead guitarist/vocalist Jason Roller.
“Alvino has been keeping time with me for about 10 years,” Mason says. “Tony handles the bass and keys, and he sings some of the early Traffic stuff. He’s been with me for a few years. The most recent addition is Jason on guitar. He’s by far the youngest member, and he’s a really great guitar and strings player. I was doing an acoustic-based trio thing last year, but I tend to prefer a bigger combo like this. The whole band is talented and a lot of fun.”
Fans can expect a mix of vintage “Dave classics'” and newer tunes from Mason’s recent releases at the show this week.
“We have a pretty solid set,” Mason says of the Traffic Jam song list. “We don’t really dive into things off the cuff, but it depends on what the band knows well. We are well rehearsed, and we’ve picked songs that are really fun to do. There’s enough room and flexibility within certain songs for soloing and stretching out, so there’s something fresh every night.
“I’m really surprised how well it’s going, audience-wise,” he adds. “Our core audience can range from the 40s to the late 60s or so, you know? But we do get some really young music fans, too. I love connecting with any audience. There’s no glitz, glamour, fireworks, or dancers; we’re just straight-ahead. We try to stick with what works. We’re getting very positive responses and filling larger venues than I was doing a few years ago. It’s been such a great experience this year.”
Dave Mason’s Traffic Jam hits the stage at the Charleston Music Hall at 8 p.m. on Sat. Feb. 15. Tickets are available for $32.50 and $39.50. A “SEWE Discount” ticket is also available for $27.50.
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