Missoula’s own Pete Mason touts himself as a solo singer-songwriter, who invited some friends to accompany him on his eponymous debut album. Truth be told, his backup band may have been better served stepping forward, leaving Mason more in the background.
By far, the album’s best songs are those that showcase the guest artists: Delicate cello and violin add much-needed depth, and the dobro’s few haunting appearances leave the listener craving its touch on every track. Mason’s guitar playing is solid, and some of his tunes, such as the catchy “Mystery” and sonorous “Goodnight,” show compositional flare, but the lyrics frequently remain insipid. His innocuous vocals still somehow give off the impression that with time, his breathy, pensive tone might grow into something distinctive. It is, however, currently indistinguishable from a slew of other folk-pop artists.
This isn’t necessarily bad; that introspective, coffeehouse voice has worked for plenty of singers, and Mason has both the time and passion to figure out how to make it work for him. For now, though, Mason could prosper from the collaboration of his musician friends, setting aside the solo-artist idiom to make room for others’ talents. (Melissa Mylchreest)