Traffic Jammer Dave Mason Peers Into His Future's Past
The original Traffic: Jim Capaldi, Chris Wood, Dave Mason, and Steve Winwood (bottom)
Most of the time, a traffic jam is a wholly unpleasant experience and something to avoid at all costs. But when the said confluence of cacophony is Dave Mason's Traffic Jam, time spent sitting in it will probably fly by too quickly.
Mason, a founding member of Traffic and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, is structuring his current tour a bit differently from his scores of previous road jaunts. The first half is made up entirely of Traffic material -- both from Mason's time with the group and later songs. The second covers his extensive solo career.
He's also got a new CD out, Future's Past (Red/Something-Music) in which he re-records songs stretching from some of his very first (Traffic's "You Can All Join In") to tunes from his last solo record ("Good 2 U"). There is also one new track, "That's Freedom," which Mason calls his "commentary on current affairs," and a cover of Robert Johnson's "Come On In My Kitchen."
"I hadn't planned on putting out a CD at all, but I work on a lot of things in my home studio," Mason laughs. "And the new song turned out so well, I thought it should come out on something! And I wanted to revisit some other songs as well and play around with the arrangements like we do in our live show."
And while the solo material portion of the show -- currently not scheduled to stop in Houston, but ideal for Dosey Doe -- features Mason warhorses like "World in Changes," "Feelin' Alright," "Let It Go, Let it Flow," and his biggest hit as a performer, "We Just Disagree," it's the Traffic portion that is most interesting.
Mason was a member of the group for the first two albums, 1967's Mr. Fantasy (Heaven Is In Your Mind in the U.S.) and the next year's followup Traffic. He also appeared on the odds 'n sods Last Exit and the later live effort Welcome to the Canteen.
Dave Mason today.
Photo by Chris Jensen
But in addition to songs he actually played on for the record, Mason and his band have chosen to tackle later-lineup material like "Rock 'n' Roll Stew" and "The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys."
"I didn't know what to expect for this whole thing, but it's been very well received. A lot of the Traffic stuff are things that I haven't written," he offers. "But I do what works for me. I'm not trying to be Traffic at all, but it is part of my history. And I want to keep that legacy and that music alive."
As part of the show, Mason also does some Storytellers-style reminiscing, and a visual slide and video show brings his memories to life.
As for Future's Past, one of the reason Mason wanted to put out the CD was to reintroduce some tracks from his last solo record, 2008's 26 Letters, 12 Notes, saying that "nothing happened" commercially with that release and the songs were "too good to waste."
Unprompted, Mason also launches into a rather desultory stance on the state of the record industry, be it the streaming services he feels are killing sales or the reluctance of radio and consumers to find interest in new material by classic-rock artists.
"A lot of us are still making great music. But the reality at this point is that we are sort of traveling salesmen. We sell CDs at shows," he offers and, making a clever pun, adds "we can't put Pandora back in the box."
"It's intellectual property being destroyed," Mason continues. "Music being turned into [computer language code] of zeros and ones. Radio is still there, but it's not what is used to be at all. And they're not playing anything new by classic-rock artists. What would be so wrong with a DJ saying 'that was a classic song by Dave Mason. Now here's a new one.'"
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Nonetheless, while rock and roll has been very sweet to Dave Mason over the years, he still finds a metaphor between another type of business.
"My parents owned a candy store for 48 years, and my father said it was the worst business he could have picked, because everybody and their grandmother sells candy," he muses. "Music is my life, but it's also my vocation and my business. And I'm just trying to utilize whatever I have available to make it [succeed]."
For the future, Mason has "Traffic Jam" dates booked to the end of the year. He hopes to expand the concept at a later date, inviting guest artists on that would stay for all or part of the tour similar to the recent "Experience Hendrix" jaunts.
And as for "Feelin' Alright" the song he wrote while a teenager which has gone on to be covered by nearly 50 different artists and become according to Mason his "Energizer Bunny" of songs. Which version does he prefer the most?
"Oh, Joe Cocker's, absolutely!" he says. "Nobody has covered it better than him. It would be hard to top that!"
For more on Dave Mason, visit www.davemasonmusic.com
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