Free Mason

With a music pedigree that spans the legendary band Traffic to his own durable solo career, Dave Mason is content these days to go on the road and play for his loyal legions.

By Bill McFarland

Northeast Times Staff Writer

One has to see Dave Mason in concert to understand what he's all about.

"I've always taken my career for what it is," Mason said during a recent telephone interview. "For the most part, it's been live shows, even when I was playing places like the Spectrum and Madison Square Garden (in New York). I really only had one hit song, but I've always had great live music."

Thus the reason to experience the music of Dave Mason live. In spite of the lack of hit songs, the veteran rocker still draws enough interest from fans that he has been doing nearly 150 shows in each of the last 40 years.

He arrives in our area for another concert at the intimate Scottish Rite Auditorium in Collingswood, N.J., on Saturday, Nov. 29, at 8 p.m.

"I've played there about three times already," he said. "It's a cool place. It's a good place to perform, and it's a good place for the audience, too. I don't think anybody has a bad seat."

The rock 'n' roll hall of famer has always kept our area on his extensive touring itinerary, beginning with his days as a founding member of the British rock band Traffic in the late 1960s and through his days with Delaney & Bonnie and Friends and his solo career, which included projects with such rock icons as Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, the Rolling Stones, George Harrison, Paul McCartney and Fleetwood Mac, all of whom he has performed or recorded with.

"Philadelphia has always been good to me," Mason said. "The East Coast is probably the strongest area for me than anywhere. I haven't played San Francisco in years."

The Bay Area's loss is our gain. The Quaker City's fickle fans have been noted through the years to embrace certain musical performers long before the rest of the nation discovered them, most notably Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen and Al Stewart.

Mason has been a mainstay in the local music scene since his breakthrough solo album Alone Together was released in 1969.

"I think it's great that I still have an audience (after 40 years)," he said. "I'm always concerned about sounding as good as possible and having a good time while doing it."

Perhaps therein lies the secret to his success in our area. Philadelphians have always rewarded performers of any ilk, whether it be sports or music, who demonstrate a solid and consistent work ethic. We tend to appreciate anyone who works as hard as we do.

"The only feedback that I get is from the shows that I do," Mason continued. "That's the only thing that's real to me. I think that I do pretty well because I give people a good show, and they leave happier than when they walked in. That's all I want. I'm not trying to change the world."

Perhaps best known for the hit We Just Disagree in the late 1970s, Mason also cracked the Top 40 around the same time with his soulful cover of the Carole King song Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow. Also, blues rocker Joe Cocker had a monster hit with Feelin' Alright, which Mason wrote at age 19 while still with Traffic.

For longtime fans, Mason has unveiled a new CD — 26 Letters ~ 12 Notes — that continues to acknowledge his rock and blues influences. It was six years in the making at his own home studio, and it contains contributions from many others, most notably Willie Nelson and Sheila E.

"I was just making it for my own amusement when I started it," Mason said. "Then, people who were with the label that's putting it out (Out The Box Records) started adding input, and other people got involved at different times along the way. I wasn't in any rush to get it out."

But it was worth waiting for. The new material is vintage Mason, and he'll have no trouble hawking it at his concerts because fans will be getting a dose of the new material in his show.

"We play about five songs from the new album, and the rest of the show is a mixture of Traffic songs and stuff from my solo albums," Mason said.

Finding new fans might prove to be a little more of a task, however, because the music industry has changed over the years. The new technology only provides another outlet for sales.

"If we still had the old system with (the promotion of) a record label, I'd have a hit album because there are a couple of good singles on it," Mason said. "The Internet isn't really helping me if people don't know that I have a new album out. It's just a different store."

Apparently, it's getting that message out — that he has a new album — that is a problem.

"I'm getting resistance, for whatever reason, about getting on television shows like (The Late Show with David) Letterman or (The Tonight Show with Jay) Leno," Mason said. "They say they're trying to get a younger audience.

"And radio has changed, too. It's all different programming, so I'm limited in radio choices. Even classic rock stations won't play my new album, and that (air play) would help because people spend about two hours each day in their cars.

"Because radio is what it is and the other things aren't the same anymore, I have to sell (the album) the old-fashioned way — door to door," he continued. "But like anything else in life, you do what you have to do."

This story was published on Nov. 26, 2008, in the Northeast Times in Philadelphia, which owns the copyright. It may not be reproduced anywhere else without permission.


Visit Dave Mason's Web site.

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