Avoiding the trap of the same old, same old.
Colorado's John-Alex Mason specializes in a fuzz-friendly brand of swamp-boogie blues. It's infectiously energetic, which very nearly compensates for his not-terribly-strong vocals. On songs like "My Old Lonesome Home" and "Rolled and Tumbled", Mason's scratch-tastic licks carve out a sonic landscape that is both comfortably familiar and refreshingly new.
So far, so good, so safe. What elevates this album far above the ordinary run of blues-guitar offerings are the many incidental flourishes that Mason grafts onto the basic blues template. "Come So Long" and "Riding On" both feature short, pithy raps from Cody Burnside (grandson of blues legend RL Burnside), which against all odds mesh seamlessly with the tunes. African instruments like djembe and balafone percolate throughout several tracks, adding layers of percussive interest, notably in "Riding On" and "Free". With these global sounds added to the country accents of harmonica, mandolin and fiddle, the sonic palette grows richer song by song. Recommended.