Willy Mason – Oran Mor, Glasgow, Sun 10 Mar 2013 (4 stars)

Willy Mason – Oran Mor, Glasgow, Sun 10 Mar 2013

The rootsy singer-songwriter's show succeeds best when pared right back

'You wanna hear some songs?' burrs Willy Mason into the sold-out, low-lit basement of Oran Mor. Songs are what he promises, and songs – pared-back, intimate, glorious – are exactly what he provides.

Mason works at a slow and steady pace: at the age of 28, he’s released three albums over nine years, and the quality never drops. Tonight provides the perfect mix of the fan-favourite hits and new work, with selections from all three releases. Throughout the set, Mason perfectly balances the country-style dulcimer and fiddle with well-structured songs and an enthralling voice. Although the venue is packed, the crowd are polite and enthusiastic – even the sound tech sings along and throws in a few whoops, which is equal parts annoying and endearing.

Mason is best when pared right back. His finest song is the glorious ‘Live It Up’, performed alone on the stage, the only sound the guitar and a simple drum-beat under the soothing vocals. Mentions should also go to ‘Show Me the Way to Go Home’ and ‘Hard Hand to Hold’: both appeared simple, but showcased Mason’s voice and songwriting skills beautifully.

Perhaps the joy of the simpler, sadder songs is in the depth and honesty of Mason’s lyrics. It’s not always easy to hold a crowd’s attention with just voice and guitar, but Mason performed ‘Live It Up’s’ repeated refrain – 'Live it up, live it up they say' – to an utterly silent room.

For a man who seems to carry the world’s weight on his shoulders, Willy Mason knows how to put on a good show.

Willy Mason

A mixture of folk, blues and country from the New York-based singer-songwriter and guitarist.

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