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Mason Brothers

The Sun, the Moon, & the Sea

(Self-released; US: 3 Mar 2008; UK: Unavailable)

The Mason Brothers are a Richmond, Virginia based duo, who, when not in their day jobs as university professors, release some damn good folk music perfect for fans of Nick Drake or Iron & Wine. While James Mason (the Writing professor) released acclaimed solo album Carnival Sky in 2003, The Sun, the Moon, & the Sea is the brothers’ first full-length album (although a second will be released later in 2008). Here James splits songwriting duties with brother Christian (the Applied Mathematics prof/ lap steel guitarist/mandolin picker extraordinaire).  While musically the songs are rather nondescript, the oft-whispered lyrics are stunning in their simple, yet powerful imagery of both nature and the existential crisis of the human condition. From “Ghost at the Wheel”: “Perched by the window / Staring down a drowning sun / A soldier grounds his bloody blade / And bids the dead a job well done.” Not convinced yet? Here’s the next verse: “Strangers roll by / Shake their heads and move right along / But you just sit there / Hood up hazards on.” Folkies, don’t pass this one by; The Sun, the Moon, & the Sea is one of the best folk/acoustic records to come along in some time. So in honor of the Mason Brothers’ other career, I’m awarding this album a Rate My Professor style happy face.  And looking at the photos in the liner notes, the boys also get a chili pepper (which, for those of you non-shallow types, is the website’s signifier of hotness).

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Juli Thanki is a graduate student studying trauma and memory in the postbellum South. She tries to live her life by the adage "What Would Dolly Parton Do?" but has yet to build an eponymous theme park, undergo obscene amounts of plastic surgery, or duet with Porter Wagoner (that last one might prove a little difficult, but nevertheless she perseveres). When not writing for PopMatters, Juli can generally be found playing the banjo incompetently, consuming copious amounts of coffee, and tanning in the blue glow of her laptop.


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