With more than ten releases to his name over the past fifteen years, pop-folk wanderer Mason Jennings has documented his own gradual maturation into that reflective state that so often brings out the best in singer-songwriters. His advocates are notable songwriters as well: Modest Mouse’s Isaac Brock released Jennings’Boneclouds on his Glacial Pace label, and in 2008 Jack Johnson signed Jennings to his own Brushfire Records. Though mysterious narratives of medieval swordsmen and magical wells harken to Jennings’ previous work, his latest album, Minnesota, replaces his once-pervasive political statements with more intimate priorities: his wife and children. Painfully candid lyrics reveal episodes of intense darkness: two-thirds of the closing track is just Jennings repeating “no relief” over and over, and in “Wake Up” the songwriter begs his loved ones to stick with him as he tries to better himself: “So I went to a shrink and he said to me / Just don’t drink when you’re nervous, that’s the key / I said OK, that sounds fine / I didn’t tell him I was nervous all the time.”
Jennings’ lyrics are as unguarded as they are artful, and he takes full advantage of his long writing history to carefully bare his feelings here. The close environs of Old Rock House’s excellent Listening Room Series will be an ideal setting to catch every confession, especially since he’ll be likely to revisit earlier gems by himself and others—most notably “The Times They Are A-Changin’” or “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll,” both of which are prominently featured on the extraordinary I’m Not There soundtrack.